The Vincent Chin murder is why I became “Asian-American”. The victim is at once iconic and obscure. Chin did not set out to represent the Asian-American movement. He was an ordinary guy who died because of racism; that is the only means to understand it because the encounter among strangers was anything but random.
In my hometown of Detroit, Chin was killed by attackers who blamed him in a case of mistaken identity. This was in 1982, at the height – or the depths – of a recession that was record-setting until recently.
Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American, was celebrating his bachelor’s party, a traditional ritual before a wedding. He was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by two white autoworkers, father and stepson, who had used racial slurs. According to a witness, they shouted that it was because of “little motherf*****s” like him that they were out of work.