NAPABA is proud to have been an organizational partner for the Unity March this past Saturday [June 25], the first large mobilization of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) on the National Mall that brought people of all backgrounds together who care about advancing socioeconomic and cultural equity, racial justice, and solidarity. Executive Director Priya Purandare was quoted in the Washingtonian for this historic event. We thank our members who attended and volunteered in the summer heat. Your presence contributed to a larger movement, and we are grateful for all you do! If you missed the event or any remarks, a full livestream of the Unity March is available for viewing here.
Community Service Corps | #NAPABAinAction
The mobilization came at the 40th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s murder, a critical turning point for the AAPI community. Chin’s murder, and the fact that his killers faced no jail time, highlighted the lack of a strong national voice for AAPIs within this country’s legal system. The case galvanized the community to action and this led to NAPABA’S founding in 1988 to give voice to values of justice, equity, and opportunity for AAPIs. Since that time, NAPABA has been strongly committed to civil rights advocacy.
We now stand at another turning point in history with the current rise in hate crimes targeting diverse communities. To take action and harness the power of our membership, we launched the NAPABA Community Service Corps to provide opportunities for NAPABA members to act for impact at the local and national levels. NAPABA Community Service Corps opportunities include hate crimes assistance and election protection efforts to fill the needs of the community.
NAPABA needs your help to form a national infrastructure of members committed to strengthening our communities. Will you join #NAPABAinAction? Learn more here and sign up on the Volunteer Now tab!
NAPABA Community Service Corps works to preserve the memory of Chin
WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association commemorates the 40th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin. On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American industrial draftsman, was brutally beaten in a racially motivated attack during a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment and died as a result of his injuries a few days later. Vincent Chin’s death and his killers’ lenient sentences marked a turning point in Asian Pacific American civil rights advocacy in the United States.
“With the dramatic spike in hate violence perpetrated against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, honoring Vincent Chin serves as a poignant reminder that more still needs to be done to rid our society of xenophobic hate and ensure our community’s voice is heard,” said A.B. Cruz III, acting president of NAPABA. “Mr. Chin’s senseless death and subsequent trial underscored the importance of the Asian Pacific American community standing together in the fight against racism and advocating in the courts. We must continue to build on this legacy by continuing to oppose hate and violence in all forms.”
Chin’s murder and the sentences of his killers highlighted the lack of a strong national voice for Asian Pacific Americans within this country’s legal system. Recognizing the need to establish such representation, NAPABA was founded in 1988 to give voice to values of justice, equity, and opportunity for Asian Pacific Americans. Since that time, NAPABA has been strongly committed to civil rights advocacy.
With the current rise in hate crimes targeting diverse communities, the NAPABA Community Service Corps works to provide opportunities for its members to take action for impact locally and nationally. NAPABA is a co-sponsor of the first-ever Unity March on June 25, 2022, an Asian American multicultural event to advance socioeconomic and cultural equity, racial justice, and solidarity. NAPABA Community Service Corps opportunities to engage in the Unity March and other projects to protect and advocate for civil rights honors the memory of Vincent Chin.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting APA communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of all backgrounds in the legal profession.
Elaine Chiu, Professor of Law at St. John’s School of Law, Academic Committee Co-Chair, and member of the Anti-Asian Violence Task Force at AABANY, detailed how hate crimes have affected Asian Americans in the United States in a special interview on a Korean Radio Show, Morning Wave In Busan, on June 6th, 2022.
Prof. Chiu provided an overview of the situation by referring to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. The Center reported that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 339% from 2020 to 2021. This alarming percentage is exemplified by the growing number of news reports and stories of Asian hate crimes experienced by Asian Americans across the country.
Focusing specifically on New York City, Prof. Chiu, along with other members of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force, looked at the number of hate incidents against Asians reported to the New York City Police Department. In 2020, Prof. Chiu mentioned 28 hate crimes reported, in contrast to 2021, when a total of 131 hate crimes were accounted for in their report. This unprecedented increase of 361% traces back to the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. AABANY reported this in greater detail in its Endless Tidereport, which followed the Rising Tide report published in 2021, to raise awareness about the hate crimes and violence that the AAPI community has experienced over the last two years.
Prof. Chiu also states that AAPI Americans have long been victims of racial violence, discrimination, and exclusion. One of the most well-known victims of hate crimes is Vincent Chin. Chin, who was brutally murdered after being beaten by two white men in Detroit, caused an uproar Asian American community after his assailants received a mere $3000 fine and probation upon sentencing. Forty years after Chin’s brutal murder, Prof. Chiu states that it is clear that the pandemic did not create hate crimes against Asians but instead led to them.
She also states that the explosion of hate crimes against AAPI persons can be attributed to the divisiveness pervasive in the United States, as demonstrated during Trump’s presidency when he enabled xenophobia against Asians by calling COVID-19 the “Kung Flu.” Moreover, with the rise of China as a global superpower, the racial lines are further exacerbated and felt by many Chinese Americans residing in the United States today. Prof. Chiu also states that the steady demise of mental health resources and Americans’ ready access to guns and deadly assault weapons can be contributing factors to this issue.
Prof. Chiu ended the interview by affirming President Biden’s meeting with BTS (방탄소년단), a world famous K-pop group. BTS was invited to the White House to talk about Asian representation and address the amount of misinformation regarding the rise in Anti Asian hate crimes. Prof. Chiu further highlighted the importance of how President Biden and BTS’s efforts extend a sense of hope and positivity for many. With the continued rise in hate crimes and attacks against Asians, Prof. Chiu called on everyone on social media, especially those who have influence and following like BTS, to continue to visibly oppose and actively resist hate crimes against the AAPI community.
Listen to Prof. Chiu’s full interview with Morning Wave In Busan here.
Vincent Chin is a name painfully familiar to some and unrecognizable to others. It is the beginning of so many stories, including mine. Three years ago, I met Annie Tan (no relation to me, though we happen to share the same name), an Asian American activist, teacher, and niece of Vincent Chin. She was the keynote speaker at Crossroads, a conference for young Asian American activists organized by Columbia students. I was a confused 16-year-old attending my first conference dedicated to activism.
At the time, I had just begun exploring my Asian American identity and history. Through self-education and discussions with other students, I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the model minority myth. But, despite my interest in activism, I did not believe that I could seriously pursue or be successful in creating change for the Asian American community. Who would listen to a young, Asian American girl, not even old enough to vote, talk about race, especially when these conversations are often so complex and black and white?
However, as Annie Tan stood behind the podium and began recounting her own journey in activism–how she found a supportive community through Columbia’s Asian American Alliance, and how the legacy of her uncle, Vincent Chin, affected her work–I realized that someone like me, someone who looked like me and even had the same name as me, could be an activist. Because of Asian American women like Lily Chin and Helen Zia, Vincent Chin’s death became not just a moment, but a movement for Asian Americans. And, it is because of people like Annie Tan, and maybe even people like me, that the story of Vincent Chin, and the story of Asian America, continues to be told and heard.
This year, on May 28, during APA Heritage Month, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) co-sponsored a virtual trial re-enactment of the Vincent Chin case with Allen & Overy–the first time a reenactment has been performed virtually via WebEx due to the restrictions of COVID-19. I attended this event, hoping to learn more about the man whose life inspired so many, including myself, to speak out against hatred, violence, and inequity.
Vincent Chin was beaten to death in 1982 in Detroit days before his wedding by two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who were laid-off automobile workers. The fatal assault was preceded by an argument between Chin and Ebens, who hurled racial insults at Chin, reportedly calling him a “Nip.” At the time, Asian Americans were the face of the enemy: the robust Japanese automobile industry was putting many automobile workers in Detroit, like Ebens and Nitz, out of work.
Despite the violent acts that Chin’s murderers committed, they were imposed only a fine for their crimes. When the case reached the Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Kaufman, finding Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter, only sentenced them to three years probation and a fine of approximately $3,000. They received no jail time, and no prosecutor appeared during the trial, nor was Chin’s family notified of the trial.
Frustrated with this outcome, Helen Zia and Lily Chin, supported by the newly-founded Asian American civil rights organization American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), urged the U.S. Department of Justice to bring federal criminal charges against the murderers and investigate the case as a civil rights violation. The case was brought to Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, one of the first African American women to serve on the Federal bench, and in 1984, the U.S. District Court found Ebens guilty of violating the civil rights of Chin and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. However, Ebens’ lawyers appealed, claiming that the trial judge did not allow the defense to present evidence that suggested the prosecution tampered with the witness testimony. This led to a retrial in the federal court in Cincinnati on May 1, 1987, which found that Ebens was not guilty of violating Chin’s civil rights and that his actions were not motivated by Chin’s race. The same year, Ebens and Nitz settled a civil suit out of court, where Nitz was ordered to pay $50,000 and Ebens was ordered to pay $1.5 million to the Chin estate. To this day, Ebens has not served any jail time and has yet to pay the now $8 million (with accumulated interest) he owes to the Chin family.
The Vincent Chin case highlighted the flaws in our criminal justice system and served as a catalyst for Asian American civil rights engagement. Following the trials, federal and state laws were enacted to give victims of hate crimes greater rights. The case also led to reforms in sentencing and plea bargaining, including the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Most importantly, Chin’s murder awakened the civil rights consciousness of Asian Americans in a time when the subject of race was still Black and White. Asian Americans were galvanized by the notion that they, just like Vincent Chin, could be beaten to death because of their race without the perpetrators suffering any consequences. People across ethnic and socioeconomic lines joined together to seek justice for Chin, creating organizations such as American Citizens for Justice, now known as the Asian American Center for Justice, focused on civil rights work.
A panel discussion followed the trial re-enactment, featuring: Christine Choy, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” and professor at NYU Tisch School of Arts; Emil Guillermo, print and broadcast journalist, and contributor to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s blog; and Jia Lynn Yang, Deputy National Editor at The New York Times and author of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide, which examines the history of immigration in the United States. The discussion was moderated by John Hwang, Partner, and Jiawei Chin, Associate, at Allen & Overy.
Christine Choy reflected on the evolution of activism and the Asian American identity, referencing major events such as the end of the Vietnam War, and the rise of the Black Panther Party and other young student movements. She cited the Red Guard Party in Chinatown as an early example of Asian American activism and stressed that Vincent Chin’s murder was responsible for asserting Asian Americans’ role in civil rights.
Emil Guillermo emphasized that though the crime of Vincent Chin awoke people in Detroit, he, himself, did not know as much as he should have about the case. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Chin’s death, most people still do not understand the full picture of what happened during Chin’s case. Guillermo also highlighted the similarities between Vincent Chin’s death and that of George Floyd, urging the Asian American community to recognize their shared experiences with Black communities.
Finally, Jia Lynn Yang noted how quickly the Asian American population has grown, rising from 3.5 million in 1980 to now over 20 million. Despite their growing presence, Asian Americans are still viewed as foreigners who will never belong in the United States, just as Vincent Chin was. In fact, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed many Asian Americans to immigrate to this country, was not consciously written to welcome non-Europeans. Now, however, almost two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign-born, and the xenophobic attacks Chin faced have transformed into anti-Asian violence and harassment from racially-charged fears over COVID-19.
Many of us are tied to Vincent Chin, often in ways we may not even realize. He is the reason why many individuals, like myself, are inspired and emboldened to engage in Asian American activism. Vincent Chin is not just a memory they think of once a year, on the anniversary of his death. As I listened to Annie Tan describe her family’s pain, and how brave and lonely Lily Chin–her great aunt–was as she fought for her son’s justice, I understood that Vincent’s murder is a wound that continues to haunt families, friends, and communities connected to him, and a legacy that is still alive in Asian Americans today.
It is easy for us to forget their names: Vincent Chin, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain. But we must recognize that these individuals are not simply statistics or hashtags. Their lives–cut short by racism, bigotry, and the failures of our criminal justice system–mattered. Their lives have the power to inspire people to take action against hate and to spark movements, but this is only possible if we continue to learn about and honor these individuals, whose stories have been lost and overlooked. Only then, by acknowledging those before us, can we strive to create real change and avoid repeating the past.
We thank Allen & Overy and all of the participants in the reenactment for giving their time to raise awareness of Vincent Chin’s legacy. To learn more about the Vincent Chin trial reenactment and to request the script, go here. For more information about AABANY’s trial reenactments project, visit https://reenactments.aabany.org/.
Despite the restrictions against public gatherings during COVID-19, AABANY has remained active and busy for APA Heritage Month, hosting multiple community presentations about anti-Asian harassment and violence on May 13, 16, and 17, in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Korean.
We will continue to celebrate APA Heritage Month during the remainder of May, and we hope you will join us at the following events. Please follow the links for further details and to register.
NAPABA Honors the Legacy of Vincent Chin 35 Years after His Death
WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) commemorates the 35th anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin. On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten in a xenophobic attack during a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment and died a few days later. Vincent Chin’s death and his killers’ lenient sentences marked a turning point in Asian Pacific American civil rights advocacy in the United States.
“Vincent Chin’s murder inspired a generation of Asian Pacific American community leaders and lawyers to join an inclusive movement for civil rights,” said NAPABA President Cyndie M. Chang. “His death and subsequent trial underscored the importance of the Asian Pacific American community standing together in the fight against racism and advocating in the courts. We must continue to build on this legacy by continuing to oppose hate and xenophobia in all forms.”
Chin’s murder and the sentences of his killers highlighted the lack of a strong national voice for Asian Pacific Americans in the legal sector. Recognizing the need to establish such representation, NAPABA was founded in 1988 to give voice to values of justice, equity, and opportunity for Asian Pacific Americans. Since that time, NAPABA has been strongly committed to civil rights advocacy. With the current rise in hate crimes targeting diverse communities, NAPABA hopes that the historic weight of Chin’s case serves as a persistent reminder of the importance of protecting and advocating for civil rights.
NAPABA honors Vincent Chin’s memory and the continued legacy of advocacy that emerged in the wake of his death.
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of almost 50,000 attorneys and more than 80 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government.
NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.
National Asian Pacific American Bar Association | 1612 K St. NW, Suite 510 | Washington, D.C. 20006 | www.napaba.org
Curtis Chin, who made the documentary “Vincent Who?” about the murder of Vincent Chin and its continuing relevance today, is in New York filming his latest project, called “Tested,” which follows a group of 8th graders preparing to take the test that will give them the chance to attend one of New York City’s specialized high schools.
Curtis has less than a month to raise $20,000. Help him reach his fundraising goal! Check out the video trailer and if you want to support his project, find out more on his Kickstarter page at http://kck.st/15tsnXP
On Monday, November 19, the AABANY Trial Re-enactment Team, led by the Hon. Denny Chin and Kathy Hirata Chin, presented for the second time this year a re-enactment of the Vincent Chin Murder Trial. The Hon. David F. Bauman, Presiding Judge, Civil Division, Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County, saw the performance at the Eastern Super Regional in Atlantic City back in June and was so moved and riveted by it that he invited the team to present it at the New Jersey Judicial College, held at the Marriott Glenpointe in Teaneck, N.J., before an audience of New Jersey state court judges.
In the cast were the Hon. Denny Chin, John Bajit, Vincent Chang, Yang Chen, Francis Chin, Kathy Hirata Chin, Vinny Lee, Concepcion Montoya, Yasuhiro Saito, Vinoo Varghese, Ona Wang and David Weinberg.
The performance proved powerful yet again, with an especially moving turn by Ona Wang as Jimmy Choi, who held the dying Vincent Chin in his arms that fateful night thirty years ago in Detroit.
The Vincent Chin re-enactment script has been reprinted in a special edition of the AABANY Law Review that includes all the AABANY Trial Re-enactment scripts except for Heart Mountain, which was just performed at the NAPABA National Convention on November 17. (Photos here.) To find out how to obtain your copy go to http://lawreview.aabany.org/current-issue/.
Thirty years after Mr. Chin’s death, hate crimes seem to be a remote threat for Asian-Americans. But it is premature, if tempting, to celebrate progress.
Frank H. Wu, chancellor and dean of the Hastings College of the Law, University of California, is the author of “Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.” He is writing a book on the Vincent Chin case.