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Vincent Chin’s Legacy and Impact on the Asian American Voice

Shushrusha Lamsal

Suffolk Transnational Law Review | Staff Member
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association | Secretary
Queer Law Alliance | Vice President
J.D Candidate 2021 | Suffolk University Law School

Vincent Chin was a 27 year old Chinese American man. In 1982, on a summer night, a few days before his wedding, Vincent Chin was murdered by two white men who blamed the Japanese car industry for their unemployment after they were laid off from Chrysler. The two men were later convicted of manslaughter and did not spend a single night in jail for the murder of Vincent, a groom who died the night before his wedding. The verdict would prompt an outcry and nationwide protests from Asian Americans who were shocked by the miscarriage of justice. For the first time in American history, Asians would not protest as Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, or Indian Americans, but rather as Asian Americans. 

Vincent Chin’s case is often remembered as the turning point of Asian American civil rights engagement. He was not the first Asian American to lose life to a hate crime, but his death would be the start of a movement. Vincent Chin’s death was a flash point for Asian Americans and shoved us into the Civil Rights Movement and the discourse on racial justice.

 Our place in the racial justice discourse would once again be shaped after 9/11, when hate crimes on South Asian Americans increased significantly. Despite the fact that I was only in first grade when 9/11 happened, I vividly remember the stories of murders of Balbir Singh and Vasudev Patel, two convenience store owners, during the first week after 9/11. Just like the murder of Vincent Chin brought Asian Americans together, so would the post 9/11 violence on South Asian Americans. Today, almost 40 years since Vincent Chin’s murder, we, Asian American still pay tribute to his memory. In the nearly 40 years since Vincent Chin’s murder, the Asian American community has expanded and demanded our voices be heard. Today, Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the United States. However, many Asian Americans still face issues regarding deportation, over policing, the school to prison pipeline, poverty and unequal access to justice. So, solidarity and resistance is still important and necessary. The Nepali American community in the United States is newer. Many of us immigrated here starting in the late 90’s. We have benefitted from Vincent Chin’s legacy even though we may not know much about him. It is through Vincent Chin’s legacy that we can find the path to racial justice for Asian Americans as well as the political power necessary to resist the current politics and rhetorics that aim to divide the Asian American community.

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