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Michigan Hate Crimes Conference: Vincent Chin – A 30 Year Retrospective on Lessons Learned

September 14, 2012

The presenter of this session was Tom Hayashi, with the Organization of Chinese Americans. Hayashi began by showing a clip from the film, Who Killed Vincent Chin?

Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two White men in Detroit, with the clear motivation of racial hatred. The backdrop to the story, as it has often been presented, was that one of the killers was an out of work autoworker who beat Chin because he thought he was Japanese and the Japanese were responsible for the US auto industry’s decline.

Initially the two White men charged with the murder did not jail time and only got 3 years of probation. Hayashi stated that this was a wake up to the Asian-American community that it was finally time for their community to stop being nice.

Hayashi then talked about a case against Danny Chen, an Asian American who had joined the US military. Chen was deployed in Afghanistan and upon arrival he was harassed and intimidated by fellow soldiers because of his racial heritage. Chen was also physically abused on numerous occasions and on one day, after being hit with rocks being thrown by other soldiers, was later found dead from a gun shot wound. The military said that Chen had shot himself, but there is no conclusive evidence that Chen took his own life.

Hayashi then provided a much larger historical context around the treatment of Chinese and other Asians in US history in this country. He mentioned that treatment of the Chinese during the construction of the railroads and the racist immigration policies that were adopted in the late nineteenth century that resulted in the deportation of thousands of Chinese.

Hayashi then talked about how Chinese and other Asian Americans are the target of racist stereotypes in political campaigns. Here is a video by Citizens Against Government Waste that demonstrates deeply entrenched racism.

Hayashi then shifted the conversation around the importance of an intersectional analysis, so that deeper relationships can be developed to create more effective strategies for justice. Hayashi said that African Americans must develop relationships with the LGBT community and that the LBGT community needs to development stronger relations with feminist groups and that feminist groups need to collaborate with Asian American organizations.

The presenter stated that we need to figure out ways to find common cause with groups that have a different focus, but where there might be intersecting interests.

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