Vincent Chin (1955-1982) was a Chinese American hunted down and beaten to death by two White American men because they were thrown out of work due to the success of Japanese car companies – even though they knew he was Chinese, not Japanese. The white judge fined them $3000 each and gave them three years’s probation.
They never served a day in jail.
As the judge put it:
These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail… You don’t make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal.
We’re talking here about a man who’s held a responsible job with the same company for 17 or 18 years and his son, who is employed and a part time student. These men are not going to go out and harm somebody else. I just didn’t think that putting them in prison would do any good for them or society
He was surprised at the outcry at his sentence.
Chin’s wife-never-to-be said:
I never committed a crime in my life. Does that mean I could kill and get away with it?
It brought Asian Americans together as never before. The protests led to a federal civil rights trial – but only because Chin was an American citizen. After a trial and an appeal both men were cleared of all charges.
His mother sued them for the loss of her son’s income and services. As her only son he was expected to support her in her old age. She won $30 a week from one and $200 a month from the other.
On June 19th 1982, on the night in question, Chin was at the Fancy Pants strip joint in Detroit with three friends: Robert Sirosky, Gary Koivu and Jimmy Choi. Chin was getting married in a week and they were celebrating. Chin was 27 and worked as an industrial draughtsman.
Also at the bar were Ronald Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz. Ebens had been laid off by Chrysler three years before. When he saw Chin he said:
It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work.
He called him a “nip” and a “chink”. A fight broke out. They were thrown out of the bar.
They continued their fight in the parking lot. When Ebens got his baseball bat from his car, Chin and Choi ran off.
Ebens and Nitz hunted them down. They gave a man $20 to find out where they went, saying they were looking for a “Chinese guy”, talking about “busting his head”.
About a half hour later they found Chin and Choi at a parking lot near a McDonald’s. Choi was able to get away, but Nitz caught Chin in a bear hug. When Chin broke free, Ebens ran him down, hitting him several times on the back and head, cracking his skull.
Chin said, “It’s not fair” and slipped into a coma. Four days later he was dead.
His wedding became his funeral.