By Jamie Jung Eun Kim | New Organizing Project blogger
Two weeks ago, on June 23, seniors, activists, college students, and people of all ages and races alike joined a national Google Hangout to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s death. When asked to attend the memorial themed, “Standing up Then & Now” hosted by the Asian Pacific for American Progress in Los Angeles, I too replied, “Vincent who?”. Having had no exposure to the progressive API Community prior to college, Vincent Chin, a 28 soon-to-be married draftsman who had been brutally beaten to death by two auto workers who mistook the Chinese American to be a “Jap” that had “stolen all the American jobs,” was another injustice that I had not yet learned about.
As many refer to Vincent Chin’s case to as the spark of the API movement, the API community has come very far since the actual event. Many account Chin’s case to be the first event to shed light on various Asian ethnic ancestries that accounted for more than just Chinese and Japanese. Cities now track hate crimes and Asian American history classes are now available to take in some colleges and high schools.
Yet, even with these new strides, Congress just passed a resolution to express regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. U.S Army private, Danny Chen committed suicide this year in Afghanistan when he couldn’t handle the pressure of racial hazing from his fellow soldiers. Asian American teenagers were reported to be the most bullied teenage demographic by the US Department of Justice and Department of Education.
The Wall Street Journal article by Walter Russell Mead referred the rapidly growing Asian American community as the ‘New Tiger Immigrants’ as it referenced the U.S Census Bureau’s report of Asian Americans becoming the fastest growing demographic. The face of America will be constantly evolving. China may be rising right now but countries like India and South Korea will soon join the list for political and economical reasons. Racial tensions will always evolve. As it has happened to Danny Chen, Matthew Shepard, Vincent Chin – it can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone.
Vincent Chin was another personal wake up call that grew my appreciation for the history and the achievements of the API community. Every day, the next generation of Americans will learn about the indictment of the American justice system on Vincent Chin’s death, how people mobilized together to make his story heard. As I left the event with the striking image of young people in black V.Chin t-shirts greeting the public and ushering them to seats… I felt humbled. There are so many issues to work on and I hope that with continuous effort , younger generations can be empowered to take action.