In my sophomore year of college, the campus Asian American organization I was involved with showed a new documentary, "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" and invited one of the film's directors, Renee Tajima-Peña, to speak about the film and the case. I hadn't heard of Vincent Chin before this. But as I watched the film in a darkened classroom at the University of Illinois, I felt like I had been struck by a bolt of lightning.
As the film unwound, the events of that night made clear how racism robbed Vincent Chin of his life and then denied his heartbroken mother the justice she desperately fought for. Everything suddenly made sense to me. It was like all of the shards of racism I had experienced up until that point -- the taunting on the playground, the words "Jap" and "Chink" scrawled into my yearbook or uttered at me as I walked down the hall, even the high school boyfriend who thought David Bowie's "Little China Girl" song was so cute and about me -- crystallized in solid form and I could finally see it for what it was.
I was angered and galvanized by what happened to Vincent Chin. Asian Americans would always be perpetual foreigners and threats to the white majority, even if we were born in the U.S. and spoke and wrote English better than everyone else in the room. I -- and so many others -- knew that Vincent Chin was neither the first nor the last Asian American victim of racism and in that realization, I found my life's calling as a civil rights advocate. I have spent nearly my entire professional career and the last 15 years at Advancing Justice-LA dedicated to fighting for the rights of immigrants and people of color.
I encourage you to read our Q&A series with activists, filmmakers, and lawyers about Vincent Chin and consider making a donation to Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles so we can continue to fight for the rights of Asian Americans and all marginalized communities.
We must not forget Vincent, nor can we afford to overlook the lessons from his case.
Vice President of Programs and Communications
Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles