Sharing our stories and knowing our history is a necessary, political act. The effort to keep the lessons of Chin’s death and the fight for justice from being swallowed up by the unstoppable passage of time is not about any romantic nostalgia—understanding the past is key to making sense of the ongoing fight for justice today, activists say.
“The facts of the story are never going to change. It’s never going to have a happy ending, but it can move people to get indignant. It can move people to action,” said Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, a Michigan-based writer and activist. It’s often said that in the the aftermath of Chin’s murder, the Asian-American community was born. Asian Americans, who tended to identify by ethnicity first, came to unite around a new political identity. Chin became a symbol in the Asian-American civil rights movement, a reminder that the struggle for justice is never quite over. Wang organized the Vincent Chin Postcard Project to collect exactly these sorts of stories. Among Wang’s favorite responses was one which asked: “How long will it be before we forget Trayvon Martin like we forgot Vincent Chin?”
Images and language matters. Dehumanizing language and images make it easier to attack those who are treated as less than fully human. Whatever the community, whoever the target, demagoguery comes with a real human cost. “People who do this are putting our lives at risk,” said Wang. She cited this year’sfearmongering political ads which played on American fears about the economic ascendance of Asian countries. In transparently coded images and words, politicians exploit those fears, but not without with great risk. “People see those ads and even if they don’t fully understand the message of the ad they take away this fear of China, and that makes it dangerous for those of us real Asians who are walking around on the street.”
Stewart Kwoh of APALC and Zahra Billoo of CAIR quoted too.
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The Civil Rights Lessons of Vincent Chin’s Murder - COLORLINES