Asian Pacific American Community Reflections Thirty Years after Beating Death of Vincent Chin

fkwang vchin postcard postcard project, design by Dominic Pangborn and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

On June 19, 1982, a young Chinese American named Vincent Chin, 27, went to the Fancy Pants strip club in Highland Park, Michigan, with a few buddies for his bachelor’s party a week before his wedding. There, they encountered two autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who, like many at the time, blamed the Japanese for the U.S. auto industry’s troubles, “It’s because of you little m—f—s that we’re out of work.” By the end of the night, Nitz had Chin in a bear hug while Ebens struck Chin’s head four times with a baseball bat, cracking his skull. Vincent Chin died four days later. His wedding guests attended his funeral instead.

On March 18, 1983, Judge Charles Kaufman sentenced Ebens and Nitz to three years’ probation and a $3,000 fine, saying, “These aren’t the kind of men you send to jail. You fit the punishment to the criminal, not the crime.” This was followed by a federal civil rights trial in which they were acquitted on appeal, and a civil suit in which they were ordered to make restitution, which Ebens never did.

To this day, neither Ebens nor Nitz has spent a single day in jail.

This case was a shocking wake-up call for Asian Americans of all ethnicities who suddenly realized the brutal consequences of the “all Asians look alike” stereotype and anti-Asian slurs. Coming to America, working hard, and keeping your head down per the model minority stereotype was not enough. This could have happened to anyone.

Thirty years later, the Vincent Chin case has become a staple of Asian American Studies courses; the community has grown, developed, and organized; legal changes have been made. Yet still there is much work to be done.

For this thirty year anniversary, the Asian Pacific American community gathered together for a National Townhall via Google Hangout, Vincent Chin 30: Standing Up Then and Now, organized by Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, and many Asian Pacific American writers, leaders, and allies also wrote reflections about the case. Here are some of the best:

Why Vincent Chin Matters – Frank H. Wu, Dean and Chancellor of UC Hastings Law School. “Asian-Americans who have achieved success owe a debt to the agitators who followed the Chin case, often defying their own cultural backgrounds as well as the stereotype of passivity and quiescence.”

Emil Amok Blog: Ronald Ebens, the man who killed Vincent Chin, apologizes 30 years later – AALDEF Emil Guillermo‘s exclusive interview with Ronald Ebens: “In an exclusive telephone interview, Ebens, a retired auto worker, said killing Chin was “the only wrong thing he ever did in his life.””

Vincent Chin: 30 Years Later | Bao Phi, Asian American activist and spoken word poet, connects the Vincent Chin case to many current day cases, both known and unknown.

A national hall to mark the 30th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s death | NIKKEI VIEW: The Asian American Blog – GIL ASAKAWA’S JAPANESE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE ON POP CULTURE, MEDIA & POLITICS Gil Asakawa of Nikkei View reflects on why the Vincent Chin case 30 years ago still resonates for him and for all of us.

Is Your Font Racist? (Tao Jones) – Speakeasy – WSJ Jeff Yang connects something as seemingly innocuous as the chop-suey font to the 30th anniversary of the brutal baseball bat beating death of Vincent Chin.

30 years later: Stewart Kwoh recalls Vincent Chin case | Asian Pacific American Legal Center APALC’s Stewart Kwoh recalls the Vincent Chin case and Mrs. Lily Chin. “She was smiling, but I could see in her eyes that she had lost everything,’’ he recalled of the visit. “What happened was not just a tragedy for her and her family, but an indictment of the U.S. justice system.”

one of the guys who killed vincent chin is “hanging in there” Phil Yu, who also chronicled much of this content and who moderated the National Townhall on Google Hangout, delivers his usual surefire commentary.

Crossing boundaries and standing up for justice together. NoH8. Remembering Vincent Chin. | Chicago is the World Frances Kai-Hwa Wang ( speaks at a gay pride event about the Vincent Chin case and reflects on how all of us need to cross boundaries and stand up for justice together, not only regarding the Vincent Chin case, but for all communities of color and difference.

Remembering Vincent Chin | The White House Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, “In a diverse, democratic nation like ours, we all must be able to live and work in our communities without fear of being attacked because of how we look, what we believe, where we are from, or who we love.”

The Civil Rights Lessons of Vincent Chin’s Murder – COLORLINES By Julianne Hing. Quotes Frances Kai-Hwa Wang of, Stewart Kwoh of APALC, and Zahra Billoo of CAIR.

Emil Amok Blog: Can we all get along? Recalling injustice from Rodney King to Vincent Chin – AALDEF Pure Emil Guillermo, connecting Rodney King to Vincent Chin, “That’s a lot of social injustice to recall in one paragraph, let alone one week.”

30 years later, Vincent Chin’s family awaits justice in fatal beating | The Detroit News | Interviews Ronald Ebens, family and friends of Vincent Chin, including APAP’s Curtis Chin and APACC’s Denise Yee Grim. Excerpt: “Asked how he’s doing now, he responds casually. “I’m hanging in there,” he said. “But I’m getting tired. I’m an old man.””

#VC30 Rivals Obama’s for Largest Google Hangout Keith Kamisugi at, the title says it all.

The Man Who Killed Vincent Chin’ by Michael Moore | Before “Roger and Me,” Michael Moore interviewed Ronald Ebens 1987. I have chills. Can’t even begin to excerpt…


More information and more media coverage about the Vincent Chin case can be found at Frances Kai-Hwa Wang’s blog,, where all are also invited to participate in the postcard project to share their reactions to What does the Vincent Chin case mean to me? and How does the Vincent Chin case inspire me?

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media Ethnoblog,,, and She team-teaches Asian Pacific American History and the Law at the University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at, her blogs at and, and she can be reached at


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