Ripples of Justice

Vincent Chin was adopted from a Chinese orphanage by his parents. His father had fought for the U.S. during World War II and had the right to bring his Chinese wife to the U.S. Vincent went to school in the U.S. and had a technical education. He was employed by an automotive supplier.

Vincent was engaged to be married and he and his friends were at a bachelor’s party. Vincent was confronted by two men who used racial slurs. The dispute escalated and eventually ended up in the parking lot.

When one of the men obtained a baseball bat Vincent started running. After a 30 minute search, Vincent was trapped by the two men. One held him while the other took a violent swing and cracked open Vincent’s head. Vincent was rushed to the hospital, but died four days later.

The two assailants were arrested and tried on manslaughter charges. The sentence was three years’ probation and a $3,000 fine. They never served any jail time.

When there was an effort made to charge the two men on civil rights violations, Vincent’s family received very little support. Traditional civil rights groups did not believe that civil rights legislation applied to Asian Americans.

Eventually civil rights charges were brought, but only one man was convicted. He was later released on an appeal. Subsequently, a civil suit was successful.

The death of Vincent was prior to the enactment of hate crime laws. The death of Vincent Chin became a catalyst for stronger hate crime legislation that was more inclusive. It would take years for federal hate crimes legislation to finally be adopted.

Just imagine a society that decides what is just solely based upon a person’s biology. What makes the killing of a person acceptable because they are of a certain skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other birth traits? While Vincent Chin’s family never saw justice for his death, they did it least find solace in that his death did generate an understanding of the need for hate crime legislation. The killing of Vincent Chin has created ripples of justice.

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“I shall never permit myself to stoop so low as to hate any man.” – Booker T. Washington (African American Activist)

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