Remembering Vincent Chin and the Deep Roots of anti-Asian Violence

40 years after Vincent Chin’s murder, the struggle against anti-Asian hate continues.

holding a Vincent Chin photo
Photo of Vincent Chin By Li Zhou[email protected] Jun 19, 2022, 8:00am EDT

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the brutal killing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man in Detroit whose murder sparked a reckoning over anti-Asian discrimination and spurred a surge in Asian American activism.

The anniversary comes as Asian Americans in the US face an uptick in violence, driven by the same xenophobia that fueled Chin’s killing. In 1982, Chin was killed by two white men upset about the competition US companies faced from Japanese automakers, who sought to pin the blame on him. Since March 2020, there have been more than 10,900 hate incidents reported to the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, including physical attacks and verbal abuse that put the blame on Asian Americans for the spread of Covid-19.

Other sources have found similar trends. According to the FBI, hate crimes toward Asian Americans increased 76 percent in 2020 compared to the year before, with another report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism finding an even larger jump in many large cities in 2021.

Like with Chin’s killing, recent anti-Asian hate crimes reflect a willingness to conflate individual Asian people and US tensions with Asian countries. As Americans — including politicians — looked for someone to hold responsible for Covid-19, Asian Americans were targeted given the virus’s origins in China. And since the US is now locked in economic competition with China, experts anticipate that anti-Asian sentiment will endure.

After Vincent Chin’s murder in 1982, the Asian American community united to call on the Department of Justice to bring a federal civil rights charge against Chin’s killers, who received 3 years probation and a $3,000 fine for the murder. In 1984, hundreds marched from Los Angeles’ Chinatown neighborhood to City Hall.
– Courtesy photo/Asian Americans Advancing Justice – LA

“The parallels between Vincent Chin’s murder and what we see today is striking and disturbing,” says John Yang, the executive director of the advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “It is frankly what we’ve seen throughout history, that when there are issues involving a foreign nation, there’s a backlash against the Asian American community in the United States.”

What happened to Vincent Chin?

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