On this 40th anniversary of his death, we take a moment to remember Vincent Chin.
Vincent Chin was the only child of Lily and David (C.W. Hing) Chin, immigrants from China’s Guangdong province who supported their family by working in laundries and restaurants. His father David was a World War II veteran, and as such, had earned the right to bring Lily to the United States as a war bride. After finding that Lily could not bear children, the couple adopted Vincent from an orphanage in China in 1961 when he was six years old. They loved and raised him in Highland Park, Detroit.
Like his parents, Vincent was a hard worker. In 1980, he landed a job as draftsman at an automotive and aircraft mechanical engineering firm and in the two years he worked there was commended for his good work with two pay raises. He additionally worked a second job on weekends as a waiter and attended night school to learn computing.
He was the kind of person who knew how to sustain a lifelong friendship, such as that with Gary Koivu, a friend since they met at the age of six. At age 27, he was a man in love with dreams to buy a home and start a family. He and his fiancé Vickie Wong had met three years before and planned to wed at the end of June. This Detroit Free Press story, allowing friends and would-have-been in-laws to speak about the dream of happiness that was ended by his tragic murder, humanizes Vincent and the pain and loss all who loved him, especially Vickie, so close to their wedding, must have felt.
On the evening of June 19, 1982, Vincent and friends were celebrating his last days as a bachelor at the Fancy Pants strip club when he had a fateful altercation with autoworkers Ronald Ebens and Micheal Nitz. Ebens and Nitz subsequently tracked him down, Nitz held him, defenseless, while Ebens brutally beat him with a baseball bat. Vincent died four days later from his injuries.
The miscarriage of justice perpetrated by the judge who sentenced Ebens and Nitz to a mere 3 years probation and $3000 fine for taking his life launched an Asian American civil rights movement, led by his mother Lily Chin, who had only recently also buried her husband and through her grief sought justice for her son. They persist in their fight for justice for him forty years later.