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The Model Minority Awakened
The Murder of Vincent Chin - Part 4

Written by Christine Ho

THE NEW TRIAL WAS THEN SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 21, 1987 with a change of venue to Cincinnati due to the publicity surrounding the case. Once again, the Asian community rallied together for justice for Chin. On the eve of the retrial, "a prayer service for peace and against racism" was held in Cincinnati at St. Monica Roman Catholic Church. Speakers ranged from the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Bahai churches, Japanese Buddhists, and Alvin Sikes from the civil rights group Justice Campaign of America. The Roundtable of Americans of Asian Descent was also founded a month prior to the trial to bring Asian support together. At the new trial of Ebens and Nitz, the Asian community once again attempted to garner support and gained positive media coverage to achieve the ends of justice.

Article  References   
Additional Information

"Federal Judge Orders Civil Rights Retrial Moved To Ohio." (Feb. 24, 1987). Wire Service. Retrieved Nov. 13, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis

Vale, Bill. (April 21, 1987). "Asians Hold Peace Service." Wire Service. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis


"Asian American Groups Attack Verdict in Beating of Chinese American." (May 2, 1987). Domestic News. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis

Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans: An Interpretative History. Twayne Publishers: Boston, 1991, p. 178.

ON MAY 1, 1987, the U. S. District Court jury in the second trial of Ebens and Nitz found both men innocent of all charges. Falling short of five years, the Vincent Chin case was finally over, and the "justice" as dictated by the ACJ had not been found. This failure in the courts for Vincent Chin was attributed to the change of venue to Cincinnati. According to Asian Americans: An Interpretive History, Cincinnati was "a city whose residents not only had little exposure to Asian Americans in general but were also unfamiliar with the hostility that people in Detroit harbored against Japanese cars and Japanese-looking people." The Vincent Chin case had failed in the courts; Ebens and Nitz were free men. Was this case just a waste of time then? No. While on the surface this case seemed to be a failure, it was anything but such a thing. This case was the first of its kind to mobilize Asian Americans to a unified cause. It showed the Asian American community how to organize around similar cases. It produced new organizations that would know how to handle such issues. It was a learning experience for the Asian American community on how to actively take a stand. Most importantly, it remains in the consciousness of Asian Americans and continually educates on what could happen and what should be done.

THUS, EVEN THOUGH THE LEGAL CASE WAS OVER, the fight for justice was not over. To this day, Vincent Chin is remembered as an atrocity that needs further prevention. Jim Tso, the national president of the OCA, said:

    We are not going to let this case die by any stretch of the imagination, because it will continue to be a symbol of the injustices that are perpetuated by Asian Americans in this country. No matter what happens we are going to continue to pursue this case and make sure in the future there are no other Vincent Chins.

This case served as an inspiration to work harder on future cases. According to James Shimoura of the ACJ, "My heart sank 30 feet. I fully expected a guilty verdict. I think every Asian American will shed a tear today because of this verdict." The shock of this case would act as motivation to prevent further atrocities.

Article  References   
Additional Information

"Asian American Groups Attack Verdict in Beating of Chinese American." (May 2, 1987). Domestic News. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis


Wei, William. The Asian American Movement. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, 1993, p. 167.

"Man Agrees To Pay $1.5 Million in Fatal Beating of Asian American." (July 31, 1987). Domestic News. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis

Joh, Sehyon. (March 28, 1989). "Two Asian American Filmmakers Hope To Win Oscar." Domestic News. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis

Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans: An Interpretative History. Twayne Publishers: Boston, 1991, p. 183.

Years after this incident, Asians still remember the atrocity that occurred against Vincent. "On the tenth anniversary of Chin's death, some 500 people attended a commemorative service in Confucius Plaza, Chinatown, New York City, June 1992." The important part of this case is not that Ebens and Nitz went free but the journey that was taken and the lessons learned by the Asian American community.

THE LAST HOPE OF VINDICATION on this case would be the civil action case filed by Lily Chin. On July 31, 1987, in a civil action suit of wrongful death filed by Lily Chin against Ebens, Ebens agreed to pay $1.5 million to Chin's estate. According to her attorney, James A. Brescoll, Mrs. Chin only pursued the case on principle and was saddened by the fact that Ebens would not spend a single day in prison for the death of her son. But nevertheless, an important lesson was learned from the Chin case. Asian Americans are able to get together and mobilize under a single cause; they are not the "model minority." The Chin case woke up the Asian community to the fact that they must stand together against hate crimes.

THE VINCENT CHIN CASE ACTS AS A REMINDER on a continual basis of the need to mobilize and not be the model minority on a continual basis to the Asian community. The Asian community has not forgotten the Chin case, evident by the ample attention still given to the tragedy. For example, Christine Choy and Renee Tajima decided to make a documentary titled Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1988) Choy and Tajima interviewed all those involved in the case, including Ebens, witnesses, and members of the community divided by the incident. Ebens got to tell his side of the story, and Lily Chin was also prominent in the documentary. Who Killed Vincent Chin? went on to become nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It was also shown at the 17th Annual New Directors-New Films Festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and won the Best Documentary award at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 1988. PBS also broadcasted the documentary in July of 1989. Who Killed Vincent Chin? continues to educate the public on the Chin case and the prevalence of Asian American hate crimes in the U. S.


This New York documentary filmmaker Christine Choy is the Women of Color Film Festival's first artist-in-residence. An associate professor and former chair of New York University's graduate program in film and television, Choy has won more than sixty international awards; she directed the Academy Award–nominated documentary film Who Killed Vincent Chin? as well as many other prominent works on social justice issues. Choy was a founder of Third World Newsreel, a group of radical documentary filmmakers dedicated to developing artists and audiences of color through film production, distribution, and advocacy. She is committed to teaching, mentoring, and collaborating with new generations of inventive filmmakers. Throughout the festival, she will present an array of works, from her first film to her most recent video, and will lead a free workshop on her artistic process. For more info, click HERE.

TO FURTHER REMEMBER THE EVENT, in 1998, the play Carry the Tiger to the Mountain was premiered in Washington, D. C at the OCA Convention. The Convention, at which Al Gore spoke, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the OCA. Carry the Tiger to the Mountain also played in New York City at the Pan Asian Repertory Theater from November through December of 1998.

Article  References   
Additional Information

Joh, Sehyon. (March 28, 1989). "Two Asian American Filmmakers Hope To Win Oscar." Domestic News. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2000, from Lexis-Nexis


Contemporary American Theater Festival - Carry the Tiger. (8 November 2000).

AsianWeek. Calendar of Northern California. (8 November 2000).

Contemporary American Theater Festival. Carry the Tiger. (8 November 2000).


According to the Contemporary American Theater Festival web site, the play is "an epic dramatization of the true life story of the victim's mother, Lily Chin, and her journey from postwar picture bride to civil rights activist in search of justice for her son." The playwright was Cherylene Lee, who was commissioned by the Contemporary American Theater Festival to write the play.

On the Vincent Chin incident, Lee said:

Even into the late 1990's, the Vincent Chin incident plays a role in reminding Asian Americans of the atrocity that occurred.

Click HERE to go to Part 5
HERE for Part 1, HERE for Part 2 and HERE for Part 3

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