Vincent Jen Chin was a Chinese-American who was beaten to death in a hate crime committed in the Highland Park suburb of Detroit in June 1982 by two white autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. Chin had been celebrating his bachelor party in a local bar when he was harassed by Ebens and Nitz. Both had been recently laid off by Chrysler, and specifically blamed Asian Americans, or the rise of the Japanese automobile market, for “taking their jobs.” Ebens and Nitz began taunting Chin with racist and xenophobic remarks, including “it’s because of you we’re out of work.” They proceeded to follow Chin to the parking lot, where they attacked and blugeoned the 27- year old to death. Chin died four days later.
With rampant anti-immigrant sentiment in the country at the time, specifically against Asian Americans, Nitz and Ebens failed to ever be held accountable for their crimes. Both were charged with second-degree murder but bargained their charges down to manslaughter. In 1983 they were ordered to pay $3,000 and serve three years probation, with no jail time, despite the fact that they admitted to the killing.
After the crime, a Asian American civil rights movemement erupted across the nation, and was joined by African Americans and other minorities advocating for equal rights. American Citizens for Justice/Asian American Center for Justice was formed by a small group of attorneys and activisits in Detroit who began to push for the case to be prosecuted as a federal hate crime. They were successful, and this was the first hate crime case ever tried with an Asian American victim In our country’s history.
Some of the founding members of the organization are still involved in it today. They include Roland Hwang, our current Vice President, and journalist and activist Helen Zia.
Our organization helped gain support for a trial by staging rallies, organizing demonstrations, and launching a massive letter-writing campaign. In 1984, the two men were brought to trial and Ebens was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, this ruling was later overturned due to a legal technicality. In a 1987 retrial, Ebens and Nitz were found not guilty on all charges.
The goals of the our organizafuon today have extended beyond the Chin incident, moving to broader aims of educating the public about Asian-American discrimination and helping other victims of racial harassment and injustice. We advocate for Asian-Pacific Americans in several areas, including law enforcement, legislation, networking, education, voting rights, and health. In addition to offering free legal consultation to victims of racial harassment and discrimination, we also collaborate with other attorneys and legal groups to monitor and provide advice for anti-Asian incidents throughout the country. We also work to influence public policy and public institutions through our civic engagement and advocacy work, striving to make sure all vulnerable populations have a voice.
Who Killed Vincent Chin?