AA101: A series presenting the quick bullet points of Asian American Studies

 

Does Asian American Studies still matter?

  • This question was asked in the early 1980s through the events related to Vincent Chin and answered with a resounding YES.

 

What’s the significance of the Vincent Chin case?

    • Signals to the rest of Asian America that what happened to Vincent could happen also to you.
        • The fact that we look the same is a problem.
        • A Vietnamese Chinese was called a “Jap,” beaten to death and his perpetrators got off scott free.
    • Global geo-politics affects the everyday treatment of Asian Americans.
        • People see the color of our skin, and project orientalized ideas on us.
        • See April 2013 anti-Asian Twitter responses to movie Olympus has Fallen fictionalizing North Korea’s plan to destroy America.
    • Emergence of a pan-Asian American solidarity: re-invigorates Asian American Studies and the Asian American Movement.
        • Race still matters!  The racial structures in place can literally kill us—even in this modern age.  We need to do something!

 

What happened to Vincent Chin:

    • An encounter between Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, and Vincent Chin at a Detroit strip club in 1982.
        • Chin was there for his bachelor party.  The 27 year-old worked at an engineering firm.
        • Ebens was there with his stepson Nitz.   Ebens, 42, was a plant superintendent at Chrysler.  Nitz, 23, was recently laid off from his auto industry job.
    • Ebens blamed Chin for their loss of jobs.
        • Chin fought back.
    • Ebens and Nitz got off scott free, and were acquitted again and again.
        • The acquittals galvanized a new generation of Asian Americans.

Context:

  • A time of suburbanization, “white flight” out of cities.

  • Gang warfare and corruption in Chinatown, City Hall, the Police Department.  (The FBI summarizes 1972-1988 as “Crime and Corruption across America.”)

  • Unemployment at its highest since World War II.

  • Economic rise of ‘Asian tiger’ countries, and beginning to buy significant businesses and real estate in the US.  The Japanese auto industry was a real threat to Detroit.

 

This was 30+ years ago, why does it still matter?   I’ll never pick a fight,  visit a strip club or be in Detroit.   

  • While avoidance is a fair response, the problem of orientalization remains.

 

Learn More:

Helen Zia, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (2001)
Instrumental in fighting for justice for Chin, Zia personally chronicles the expansion of the Asian American Movement sparked by the Vincent Chin case until Wen Ho Lee, 1998.
Who Killed Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
Academy Award nominated documentary about the Vincent Chin case and the rallying of Asian Americans.

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ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG primarily asks how we are to be, think and respond to being Asian, American and Christian in Christ. Towards this end, we are extremely interested to learn from others and hear viewpoints different from our own. Please note that the views represented here are not necessarily those of ASIANAMERICANCHRISTIAN.ORG.

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