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The Model Minority Awakened
The Murder of Vincent Chin - Part 5

Written by Christine Ho


MANY INDIVIDUALS heavily involved in the current Asian American movement attribute the wave of Asian awareness to the Vincent Chin incident. Mabel Teng, who abandoned plans to become a doctor and instead became a community activist and politician, said, "The Vincent Chin case changed my life forever." According to AsianWeek, "Chin's bludgeoning death at the hands of two laid-off autoworkers succeeded in mobilizing Asian Americans nationwide" such as Mabel Teng. Helen Zia, one of the co-founders of the ACJ, described the Chin case as an "awakening" for the Asian community to racial hostility against Asian Americans. "Vincent was everyone's son, brother, boyfriend, husband, father.

Article  References   
Additional Information

AsianWeek. San Francisco Spotlights Kao Killing. (10 Nov. 2000).

AsianWeek. 20 Years of Change. (10 Nov. 2000). Yim, Roger. (June 4, 2000) "Being Born Here Isn't Enough; Chinese American journalist recounts the struggle to be accepted as American." Wire Service. Retrieved Nov. 13, 2000, from Lexis- Nexis on the World Wide Wed: http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe

Juan, Karin Aguilar-San. The State of Asian American: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s. South End Press: Boston, 1994, p. 321.

Ancheta, Angelo N. Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, 1998, p. 8.

Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans: An Interpretative History. Twayne Publishers: Boston, 1991, p. 178.

Asian Americans felt deeply that what happened to Vincent Chin could happen to anyone that looked 'Japanese. In other words, the failure of Ebens to recognize Chin as being Chinese and not Japanese shows a lack of respect and a disdain for Asian Americans in general. "Few Asian Pacific Americans would fail to recognize the killing of Vincent Chin…" This quote shows how the incident of Chin reminds the Asian community on a continual basis of the unity needed to combat hate crimes.

THE DIRECT IMPLICATIONS OF THE VINCENT CHIN CASE can also be seen in other Asian American hate crime incidents. In 1989, Jim Loo and his five friends were at a pool hall when two Caucasian men, Robert and Lloyd Piche, started assaulting and making racial slurs against them. The two men were brothers, who had lost a third brother in the Vietnam War, and had mistaken Loo as being Vietnamese. Sucheng Chan, author of Asian Americans: An Interpretive History, wrote:

Asian Americans in Raleigh quickly formed the Jim Loo American Justice Coalition to represent Loo's parents, who spoke very little English, to make sure another Vincent Chin would not occur. A representative of the coalition said, "We will do everything we can to avoid repeating the mistake with the Vincent Chin case." In March 1990, Robert Piche was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 37 years in prison. The Chin case had awoken the Asian American community to what could happen. When Jim Loo was murdered, Asian Americans were prepared and could better handle the law, and they successfully did so to get "victory" for Jim Loo.

ANOTHER INCIDENT that drew parallels to the Vincent Chin case was the killing of Kao Kuan Chung in April of 1997. Kao was a Chinese-American killed in Rohnert Park by San Francisco police. Due to Kao being Chinese and holding a six-foot long wooden stick, Police Officer Jack Shields presumed him to be a martial arts expert and thus shot Kao to death. The Asian community once again went into an uproar and demanded justice for Kao.

Article  References   
Additional Information

Ibid., p. 178.

Ibid., p. 179.

Hwang, Victor M. (Spring 2000). "The Interrelationship Between Anti-Asian Violence and Asian America." Chicano-Latino Law Review. Retrieved Nov. 12, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis

The Press Democrat. Police and the Public. (11 November 2000)

AsianWeek. San Francisco Spotlights Kao Killing. (10 November 2000).

Ibid.

Les Hata, a member of the San Francisco chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, was quoted, "In Vincent Chin, we were looking for justice. There needs to be justice for the Kao family. The case needs further exploration." Mabel Teng, who became an activist because of the Chin case, drew parallels between the Kao incident and the Chin case. She pointed out that in both instances the victims were Chinese Americans and both were probably killed due to their race. Rallies demanding justice were also held for Kao just as they had been for Vincent Chin. A similar strategy of getting public outcry to pressure the United States Justice Department and/or the United States Commission on Civil Rights to do a more thorough investigation of the shooting was also in place. Unfortunately, another similarity to the Chin case was that "justice" for Kao was never achieved because the Justice Department announced that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case on civil rights violations. Nevertheless, the Asian community was still prepared and knew how to approach the situation due to the awakening of Vincent Chin.

ANOTHER RESULT DERIVED FROM THE VINCENT CHIN INCIDENT was the spawning of activist groups due to the growing concern of anti-Asian violence in the United States. This spawning was evident by the ACJ, the Asian-Pacific Caucus of the Democratic National Committee in Detroit, and the Roundtable of Americans of Asian Descent, but these groups were mostly formed to deal directly with the Vincent Chin case. In the spring of 1986, activists from the Organization of Asian Women, the Organization of Chinese Americans, and the Japanese American Citizens League invited a diverse Asian American groups to deal with the issue of anti-Asian violence. As a result, the Coalition Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) was formed to "voice the Asian American community's concerns about anti-Asian violence and police brutality in the New York City area." This coalition was not formed to deal specifically with the Vincent Chin case but had a broader goal of hate crimes against Asian Americans in general.

The CAAAV credited its formation to the atrocity of the Vincent Chin murder. In October 1986, in New York City, the CAAAV sponsored a half-day educational forum on "Violence against Asians in America." The forum gathered more than 250 people, who were all ready to get involved in the Asian American movement. The CAAAV focused on "advocacy work for victims, community mobilization, documentation of incidents, public education, lobbying, and coalition building." Its first case concerned Caucasian police officers, who forcibly entered two Asian Americans' apartment, assaulted four family members, and arrested them on false charges.


Article  References   
Additional Information

US Asians. Timeline of Asian American History Between 1990 and 1999. (12 November 2000).

Juan, Karin Aguilar-San. The State of Asian American: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s. South End Press: Boston, 1994, p. 194.

Ibid., p. 194.

Ibid., p. 195.

Ibid., p. 195.

Ibid., p. 195.

McCann, Michael W. Rights At Work. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1994.

The CAAAV proved its worth in dealing with this situation, in which all charges were dropped and the victims settled out of court for $90,000. The Vincent Chin incident, while not triumphant in the courts, was successful in forming useful coalitions among the Asian community.

IN CONCLUSION, the Vincent Chin Incident was a milestone for the Asian community. The model minority was awoken and made to realize the true importance of mobilization within the community. The travesty of the death of Vincent Chin in 1982 still acts a reminder to the Asian community of hate crimes and the need to bind together against them. The aftermath of the incident still influences today Asian communities as can be seen by the movie, the play, the current leaders of the Asian community, and the groups that were formed. The model minority became not so "model" in using the media, organizing rallies and protests, fundraising, connecting across the nation, appealing to elected officials, and most importantly, using the law. Due to the Chin case, consciousness of the need for mobilization was raised among the Asian community just as the women's rights movement did for women. As McCann points out in Rights At Work, failure on the surface does not necessarily mean that there is not success to be found underneath. Due to the women's rights movement, women came to realize that they had rights and needed to assert them. The Vincent Chin incident left behind a legacy of mobilization that will act as an organizational model and motivational story for the Asian American community. While not actual victories, the women's rights movement and the Chin incident were instrumental in what will prove to be the beginning of two successful movements.



Click HERE to go back to Part 1
HERE for Part 2, HERE for Part 3 and HERE for Part 4


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