More than three decades ago, two white autoworkers fatally beat Chinese-American Vincent Chin in Detroit with a baseball bat.
The Japanese auto industry had begun booming then. And the workers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, had mistaken Chin to be a Japanese man, blaming him for the loss of jobs in the U.S.
“It’s because of you little motherf**kers that we’re out of work,” witnesses heard Ebens say.
Chin died four days later ― just days before his wedding.
“It often feels like we have not learned from our past mistakes as a nation.”
As activists look back on the tragedy on Monday, the 35th anniversary of Chin’s death, experts say they see parallels between the xenophobic sentiments of then and now ― related to perceiving Asians as perpetual foreigners, and insecurity over jobs. of Sikh-Americans.
“Fear gives rise to hate which gives rise to violence,” Wang concluded of the hate crimes.
Vincent Chin Anniversary Should Galvanize Asian-Americans To Speak Out Today, Experts Say
Experts say that while it feels like we may have even regressed since the murder, the incident galvanized the Asian-American community to vocalize their issues. They not only elevated their own voices, but also partnered across racial groups in the fight for civil rights, creating diverse coalitions. And Wang says that in the current political climate, the group must continue to do so.
“No one has the right to challenge our participation of democracy and American life.”
“The siloing of perspectives and communities, whether through language barriers or social media ‘rabbit holes,’ is a large part of what feeds the fear that leads to hate attacks,” she said. “One way to fight this siloing is through programs that deliberately bring together diverse communities to dialogue and learn from each other.”
And ultimately, it’s about letting the public know that America doesn’t belong to any one group.
“We are all part of the American community,” Kohli said. “No one has the right to challenge our participation of democracy and American life.”
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