2022 marks 40 years since Vincent Chin’s brutal murder. The legal injustice that ensued from Chin’s death compelled the Asian American community into action and served as the impetus for Asian American activism.
In the 1980s, anti-Asian rhetoric was on the rise due in large part to the decline of the American automotive industry and an increase in the number of Japanese automotive imports to the U.S.
On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin was celebrating his upcoming wedding at a bar in Highland Park, Michigan, with his friends when he encountered two white men, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz. At the time, Ebens was a foreman at Chrysler, while Nitz had recently been laid off. Descriptions of the events preceding Chin’s murder vary. Some witnesses reportedly heard Ebens called Chin a “Jap” and yelled “[i]t’s because of you little motherf****** that we’re out of work.” Others say that Ebens and Nitz knew that Chin was a Chinese American and wanted to “get the Chinese.” Regardless of whether this was a case of mistaken ethnicity, the details of the fatal assault are undisputed.