After Vincent Chin

The Michigan Asian Student Coalition (UMASC) was formed to rally for a retrial in the murder of Vincent Chin at the University of Michigan. They expanded their activism outside of the Chin case to support demands for anti-racist policies at the University of Michigan lead by Black student organizations and activists. These proposed policies included requiring a class on race for all students and increased minority faculty within the administration. They also continued fight to dispel Asian-American stereotypes within the University setting.

As a result of our activism in the Vincent Chin Case, Asian-Americans have found a new spirit of social involvement at a time when many others have become discouraged or apathetic. We hope this spirit will be viewed positively around the nation, rather than arousing the kind of backlash that lead to the incarceration of a generation of Japanese-Americans, or to the disenfranchisement of Chinese Americans, who were forbidden by law for becoming citizens and were barred from testifying in court, even in their own defense.

“How Should Justice be Served?” Helen Zia. Detroit News. 1983. Vincent Chin Case: Articles and Aftermath (Folder 2). Box 4. American Citizens for Justice. Bentley Historical Library (University of Michigan).

Vincent Chin’s murder unified Asian Americans and inspired further work to combat systemic discrimination in Michigan. The ACJ began working on other Asian American discrimination cases, especially within the workplace, by taking part in city council affairs and ordinances. For example, in 1983, ACJ was involved in a public hearing on Detroit City Ordinances. Members of ACJ protested the exclusion of Asian Americans in minority groups when assigning of city contracts to architects. The speaker, architect Bonlap Chan, contextualized his concerns by specifically referencing Vincent Chin’s murder, reflecting on how the case shed light on systemic discrimination against Asian Americans and their frequent lack of legal protection as a “minority.”

“We insist that in the definition of “minority”, the Asian people including the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Guamanian or Samoan and other Oriental Groups, must be part of the minority definition. To exclude this group of about 8000 people would perpetuate discrimination the city purports to correct”
“Secondly, we support the proposal in the ordinance that a percentage of city contracts will be set aside to woman owned businesses. Recognizing that non-professional Chinese American women are the worst victims of the ‘Asian American success story’ myth, we believe the woman-owned business sheltered market program will benefit some of our women.”

Statement at Public Hearing, Detroit City Council.” ACJ Organizing Efforts(1983-1986). Box 4. American Citizens for Justice (University of Michigan.

Motivated by Chin’s trial, a group of politically minded Asian American students at University of Michigan also formed the Michigan Asian Student Coalition in 1988, later known as the United Asian American Organizations. This was a student-run organization historically dedicated to raising awareness and promoting Asian Pacific American (APA) activism, pride, culture, and heritage at UM. They supported the United Coalition Against Racism along with Black and Latinx student groups in their demands for anti-racist policies at University of Michigan. Along with the other conditions of the coalition, they specifically supported the appointment of an Asian American administrative advocacy member. MASC also began educating student members on Asian American civil rights cases by collecting information from news sources around the country. One such civil rights case involved David Wong, an immigrant who was charged with second degree murder of a fellow prisoner at Clinton Correctional Facility. He was convicted by an all white jury, despite a lack of evidence and substantial reporting inconsistencies. The involvement of Asian Americans in civil rights advocacy demonstrates a growing interest in Asian American Civil rights cases within and outside Michigan. This culminated in  efforts by UM students and faculty to develop the Asian Pacific Islander Department to establish and showcase the importance of the AAPI population and its history in an academic setting.

























Frank, H. Wu. "Embracing Mistaken Identity: How the Vincent Chin Case Unified Asian Americans." Asian American Policy Review 19, (09, 2010): 17-22.

Who Killed Vincent Chin? Produced by Renee Tajima. Directed by Christine Choy.

Ishizuka, Karen L., and Jeff Chang. Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties. London: Verso, 2016.

Lee, Shelley Sang-Hee. A New History of Asian America. New York: Routledge, 2014. 

Louie, Miriam Ching Yoon. Sweatshop Warriors: Immigrant Women Workers Take on the Global Factory. Boston, MA: South End Press, 2001.