Justice for Trayvon, Justice for all our children

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang #hoodiesup for all our children | photograph courtesy of Margot

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang #hoodiesup | photograph courtesy of Margot

Guest post by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang 

I am sitting at a beautiful airy music concert, the highlight of every summer, the Big Island Music Festival. On stage is a handsome young man, ukulele virtuoso Kris Fuchigami, with his mom playing backup on keyboard. But I cannot hear anything. The verdict comes through as I find my seat, short staccato posts on my Facebook feed, “Noooo,” “verdict fail,” “#hoodiesup.”

I wish I were surprised by the verdict, but my heart is breaking.

I am typing this out on my phone today because it could not wait.

How do we raise our sweet children of color? What do we tell them? What do we tell ourselves?

Just last night, my multiracial nine year old boy–who could look like any number of ethnic stereotypes–stayed up late, refusing to sleep, waiting for me to come home. When I finally arrived home, after a long day where I had travelled to 14,000 feet altitude and back, he wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed my face, “You’re the best mommy in the world. Really you are.”

I wrote the article, “Lessons I do not want to teach my children–about Dharun Ravi, Trayvon Martin, Shaima Alawadi” for Chicago is the World 16 months ago when the Trayvon Martin case first broke. Today it looks hopelessly naive. I wish a list of rules was enough to keep our children safe. My entire body feels numb.

I always felt some distance from the Vincent Chin case because of time and geography and age and naïveté. There is no distance today.

Thirty-one years ago, after racist anti-Asian epithets, a young man was beaten to death with a baseball bat on the eve of his wedding. After a plea bargain, his killers were fined $3000 for manslaughter. There were two civil rights trials. The first trial found Ronald Ebens (but not Michael Nitz) guilty of violating Vincent Chin’s civil rights, but it was declared a mistrial. The second trial was moved to an almost-all-white city with an all-white jury and Ebens and Nitz were acquitted. To this day, they have never spent a day in jail. Vincent Chin’s mother, Mrs. Lily Chin, crusaded tirelessly so that this would never again happen to another mother’s son.

My thoughts are with the Martin family.

NAACP: Urge the DOJ to file civil rights charges

Tweet me your thoughts @fkwang for RememberingVincentChin.com

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 writer, editor, educator, and activist. She has been Executive Director of American Citizens for Justice, the Asian American civil rights nonprofit formed after the death of Vincent Chin, and the Executive Director of Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce. She team-teaches Asian Pacific American History and the Law at the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a contributor for NewAmericaMedia.org’s Ethnoblog, ChicagoistheWorld.org, PacificCitizen.org, InCultureParent.com, and HuffPost Live. Check out her website at franceskaihwawang.com and follow her on Twitter @fkwang.