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Why LA Is Holding A Vigil To Mark The 40th Anniversary Of Vincent Chin's Beating Death In Detroit

In a black-and-white photo, a person holds a sign reading "Oppose all racial attacks." In the background other protesters are gathered.
Helen Zia, a social justice activist, at a rally to protest the killing Vincent Chin in Detroit, 1983.
(Victor Yang
/
Courtesy Vincent and Lily Chin Estate )
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A vigil for Vincent Chin is planned Thursday night at the El Pueblo monument in downtown L.A. to mark the 40th anniversary of his brutal killing.

Vigil details
  • A vigil to mark the 40th anniversary of Vincent Chin's killing is scheduled for Thursday, June 23

    • Time: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
    • Location: El Pueblo Historical Monument Kiosko Plaza, 430 North Main St., Los Angeles

Chin, 27, was beaten to death with a baseball bat in Detroit — an attack that galvanized Asian Americans across the nation to fight for civil rights. The two white men who killed him pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to probation, prompting protests and calls for justice at the time.

Chin's killers worked in the auto industry and were angry over a perceived loss of American jobs to Japan. Chin, who was Chinese American, was out with friends celebrating his upcoming wedding the night the attack.

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Vincent Chin wears a v-neck short sleeved shirt and a chain in a black and white photo.
Vincent Chin
(Courtesy Estate of Vincent and Lily Chin)

He was beaten on June 19, 1982 and died four days later.

Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Continue

Robin Toma, director of the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations, says raising awareness of what happened to Chin then and calling attention to anti-Asian hate continuing today is critical.

Toma said it's important for people to stand together against the violence.

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"We thought it would be important to not only educate ourselves about the sacrifice of Vincent Chin — for those who don't know about it — but then to really talk about what that means for all of us," Toma said, noting a rise in hate crimes against Asians.

"Not just Asian Americans, but African Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, white Americans who are all experiencing hate crime, and to talk about how we need to take action."

As NPR reports:

Chin's death on June 23, 1982, came at a time when the Japanese automotive industry was a flashpoint for racism. Today's hate incidents can be traced in large part to the anti-Asian rhetoric used at the beginning of the pandemic, including that by former President Donald Trump who referred to the coronavirus as "the Chinese virus."

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Among the people slated to speak at the L.A. vigil is Stewart Kwoh who worked with Chin's mother on a federal civil rights case involving her son's death.

For those wanting to learn more about Chin:

What questions do you have about Southern California?

Note: Kwoh is an honorary life trustee of Southern California Public Radio's board, which owns LAist.