The Tragic Tale of Vincent Chin

Evelyn Pei


On the night of June 19, 1982 in Detroit, Michigan, a Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was beaten repeatedly on the head with a baseball bat; he died shortly after.  The perpetrators were a duo of father and stepson, Ron Ebens and Michael Nitz.  Both Ebens and Nitz pled guilty for manslaughter and received only three years probation and a $3000 for the killing Vincent Chin.  Many were perplexed and outraged at how little of an effort and how little time was spent on the trial; no witnesses were called in for questioning and no one was informed of the results, not even Chin’s own mother.  People started asking questions; what happened to the beating of Vincent Chin? Why was there no ask for witnesses, no ask for testimonies.  There was no justice served, and thus a cry of outrage from the Asian American community ensued.  Vincent Chin’s murder was believed to be one of racial discrimination.  Both murderers worked for Chrysler Company, which had recently experienced mass layoffs and loss of business due to the shift of business from American cars to Japanese cars.  Witnesses said racial slurs were made from Ebens towards Chin.  Protests and rallies formed to fight for the justice of Vincent Chin’s murder and violation of his civil rights.  Chin’s case needed to be tried and heard again.

For many years after, the controversy surrounding the murder of Vincent Chin occupied the minds of the entire nation.  Was this murder the act of racial discrimination?  Or was it simply the result of a fight gone too far?  Many people supported both sides; but the Asian population rallied for Vincent’s justice.  With the valiant efforts of the Asian American population, Chin’s case was reopened.  But despite the endeavors of the Asian community and the testimonies of the witnesses, Ebens and Nitz were still found not guilty.  Although the Asian Americans experienced a loss, they managed to garner enough attention from the nation onto the plight of Vincent Chin and the racial discrimination he experienced.

After learning all the details of the case by watching the documentary Who Killed Vincent Chin?, I can say that I am very disappointed and shocked with many aspects of this case.  While the film I watched was indeed a documentary, it is still impossible to be completely biased and objective when creating a film.  With that said, I do believe that the documentary favored the side of the Vincent Chin versus the side of Ebens and Nitz.  In the documentary, many of the supporters of Ebens and Nitz claimed that the media was creating sensationalism by painting the case as completely a racial thing; some even claimed that Mrs. Chin, Vincent’s mother, was being used to further the careers of a few individuals.  Although I do not completely agree with this statement, I can say there might be some truth in it.  The racial discrimination argument was the only thing being argued; I believe that racial discrimination wasn’t the only thing that should have been fought against.  The death of Vincent Chin did not receive any justice whatsoever.  The life of a man, according to the American legal system, is not worth more than $3000.  It is disappointing to see the truth revealed about America; this case did not occur that long ago, and it’s scary to believe that Americans are still so closed minded and discriminatory.  I wanted so badly to believe that our nation is as diverse as the world perceives us to be.  It is very disheartening to see the truth so clearly.  So, whom do I believe actually killed Vincent Chin?  I believe it was America who killed Vincent Chin.  Not all of America, but the mindset of America and the structure of the American legal system are all at fault.  That’s who I believed killed Vincent Chin.


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