Metro Detroit is hosting a series of events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin.
In 1982, Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death in Highland Park by two white men who worked in the auto industry. His assailants served no jail time.
His death catalyzed the Asian-American community to mobilize against hate crimes and injustice. Those that advocated on behalf of Vincent Chin say they were able to improve the criminal justice system.
“Out of that whole period came a movement of what is now called victim impact statements, the right that somebody who is harmed to speak in court on behalf of themselves,” says Helen Zia, a co-founder of American Citizens for Justice, which formed after Chin’s murder. She drew parallels to the more than 200 statements delivered by sexual assault victims during the sentencing of Larry Nassar. “This is a movement that’s happened for people who were subject to crimes to say this is how I was affected. This is something the Vincent Chin case was part of.”
Mayor Mike Duggan says the group’s advocacy resonates today but the work continues.
“We still have a long way to go, as we saw in the case of George Floyd, in having a criminal justice system that treats everybody the same.”
Jim Shimoura is another co-founder of American Citizens for Justice. He says the forthcoming events will be an opportunity to reflect on Chin’s legacy.
“The program includes an Asian American film festival, a national dialogue in community conversations on race and equity in 2022, as well as performances by Asian American artists and public art.”
Anthony Lee is working on a mural of Chin in Detroit’s Chinatown on Cass Avenue. He says his death is not the end of his story.
“That can’t be the end of the narrative. I need it to be more. I need to know that we have a pulse. This can’t be just where it ends,” Lee says. “There’s lots of things in the work and a lot of people with a sense of urgency, now more than ever.”