Thirty-nine years ago on June 19 in Michigan, Vincent Chin was out at a local bar for his bachelor party. While he was enjoying the evening with his friends, two men confronted Vincent. The two men were Chrysler workers and they confused Chin, who was Chinese American, for being Japanese, shouting racial slurs and saying, “It’s because of you little motherf — ers that we’re out of work.” They later found Vincent in the area, took a baseball bat, and cracked open his skull. Four days later on June 23, Vincent died.
The men were charged, convicted of manslaughter in a county court, sentenced to no jail time, and only fined $3,000 with three years of probation. His death and the outrage that followed is often cited as a turning point for Asian American activism and civil rights engagement.
The rise of racial violence against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic is a grim reminder of how Vincent Chin’s case continues to be too relevant. On the 39th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s death, we reflect upon the conversations we published in 2017 with people who were involved with or were affected by his case.
The pervasiveness of anti-Asian violence brings us back to their comments on what the case meant to them, important lessons to learn about the case, how it affected the AAPI community, and the legacy of the case.
We send our deepest condolences to Vincent Chin, his loved ones, and community members who are remembering him today.