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Vincent Chin remembered 40 years after tragic killing as hate crimes against Asian-Americans rise

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 11:56:12-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — This week marks 40 years since the killing of Vincent Chin - a Chinese American autoworker who was beaten to death in a perceived hate crime on the night of his bachelor party.

The Asian American community begins remembrance events in his honor.

Ironically, it all comes amid a heightened climate of anti-Asian hate -- spurred by the pandemic.

Today, people in our own community are experiencing racism and xenophobia. We’re introducing ourselves to a dance studio owner trying to dance through the pain of uncertain times.

The fact is that Ronald Ebens killed Vincent Chin with a baseball bat.

Charles Kaufman put out the sentence of three years probation. There was a nationwide furor with members of the Chinese American community expressing outrage.

It was 1982. A Chinese American man had been beaten to death, perceived by many as a hate crime. The killers had walked away from jail free. The tragedy sparked a nationwide civil rights movement.

“What can be done about such a lenient sentence and the feeling that justice had not been done,” said Roland Hwong from American Citizens for Justice.

In the 40 years since the killing of Vincent Chin – new laws around hate crimes, sentencing guidelines, and victims' rights. But the one thing that has seemingly not changed the task of eradicating Asian American hate.

Today, the front door of Joori Jung's Art Lab J remains locked, the curtain closed. The modern contemporary dancer, from South Korea, never thought much about security when deciding to open this dance studio in 2012 - but when the pandemic hit, she turned into a target overnight.

It began in March of 2020 with a hate hacking incident over Zoom.

“Why you give me the Coronavirus? Why you give me the Coronavirus?” said the hacker in Zoom.

She recalls another encounter during an adult dance class- a group of teens furiously banging on the windows outside.

“We just turn back to and just waiting until they leave,” said Joori Jung. “Because if I'm reacting it could make it worse.”

WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “How does it make you feel having to do something like that?”

“Every time that happens, I’m worried about my kids they live in Detroit, go to DPS, they look just like me,” said Jung.

Sadly, it did not stop there. In two years- she's faced seven different harassment incidents.

“Were you scared?” asked David.

“Every Day!” said Jung.

Joori’s experience, not isolated. From March 2020 to December 2021, nearly 11,000 hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islanders were reported.

Cases in which women were the target make up nearly 62% of incidents.

“To what extent do you think this is producing fear within the community?” asked David.

“I wonder if it’s fear, or anxiety or a realistic assessment of what’s going on,” said Hwong.

For Roland Wong, the numbers are a tough pill to swallow.

“It’s just such an order of magnitude greater now than the numbers that we’ve seen since 1982/1983,” said Hwong.

Wong was part of the mobilization of Asian Americans when Vincent Chin was killed and was one of the founding members of American Citizens for Justice, the civil rights organization born in its aftermath.

“I think there’s concern that a Vincent Chin case can happen again, and again and again,” said Hwong.

“What do we need to do to push forward, move through this, and to actually see progress?” asked David.

“Most important to me is education,” said Jung.

Education through schools.

“Legislation that requires the teaching of Asian history as part of US history,” said Hwong.

And through individuals like Joori Jung. Courageous enough to share her story, today, the 39-year-old is healing through dance, recently expressing her emotions through art…in a PSA film.

“If I really want to do something for my kids, I need to speak up,” said Jung.

With immense hope that in another 40 years, her children won’t bear witness to “history repeating.”

The four-day commemoration for Vincent Chin will be held in Detroit and virtually - starting Wednesday. It will include film screenings, community dialogues and an interfaith ceremony. List of the events Vincent Chin events