by Kimberly Miyazawa Frank
CEO, YWCA of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i
“It is not fair.”
Those were reportedly the last words of Vincent Chin: a 27-year-old Chinese American who lost his life at the hands of two angry white autoworkers in 1982. The tragedy took place in Detroit, America’s Motor City, where many believed the increasing market share of Japanese automakers led to massive layoffs of American autoworkers. Vincent was not looking for trouble that evening. The dashing groom-to-be was simply having a night on the town with his friends celebrating his upcoming wedding.
This year, Vincent would have been 57 years old, celebrating his birthday with his wife and children. That prospect was shattered 30 years ago as of one the assailants smashed his skull with a baseball bat. Vincent went into a coma and died just five days before his wedding.
This horrific act ended Vincent’s life but created a new movement in America as Asian Americans united in their efforts to fight for their civil rights.
Although the incident took place far from Hawai‘i several decades ago, the treatment and rights of racial minorities resonate deeply in our local community. We are one of the five states in the U.S. with a “majority-minority” population, where more than 50 percent of the population belongs to a minority. According to the U.S. Census, Hawai‘i has the highest percentage of minorities in its overall population – 77 percent belong to some minority category. Asians are the most common group, making up 57 percent of the entire population.
Blue sky and ocean are not the only natural resources which make Hawai‘i a unique island paradise. The diverse population of various racial backgrounds creates a spirit of “Aloha” and helps to extend a friendly and warm welcome to anyone who visits our beautiful state. Yet, thirty years after Vincent’s death, how do we measure up in our efforts for racial equality?
The May 1 showing of a documentary, Vincent Who? is part of our commitment to fight racism here in Hawai‘i. The loss of Vincent Chin became a catalyst for another civil rights movement in this country and it is our responsibility to keep the discussion out in the open as we continue our efforts.
Racism does not always take such an obvious form as a vicious attack with a baseball bat. But the story of Vincent Chin reminds us of the importance of keeping the conversation alive about racial equality and civil rights. To take these ideas for granted would not be fair to the memory and legacy of Vincent Chin.
Kimberly Miyazawa Frank is the CEO of YWCA of O‘ahu in Hawai‘i. Founded in 1990, YWCA of O‘ahu is the oldest woman’s organization in the state with membership of 2,500. Learn more about YWCA of O‘ahu at www.ywcaoahu.org.
This post is part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism blog carnival on issues of race, justice and diversity. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.