Remembering Vincent Chin: Organizing the AAPI community 40 years later

40 years ago this month, Vincent Chin was murdered in a xenophobic, anti-Asian attack. Today, we remember this tragedy as a moment that galvanized hundreds of Asian Americans to demand justice for Vincent’s death. Our justice system’s blatant failure to hold Vincent’s murderers accountable birthed a whole generation of AAPI activists. 

Anti-Asian Sentiment Persists Today

Today, the AAPI community faces a renewed threat of anti-Asian hatred. Thanks in part to federal policies and rhetoric, America’s economic competition with the People’s Republic of China has taken on a combative tone. This combines with the violent anti-Asian reaction to covid-19 to create social and economic unease similar to atmosphere around Vincent’s murder in the early 1980s.

Vincent Chin was murdered in 1982 by two auto workers angered by layoffs and economic competition with Japanese automakers

Clearly, the “perpetual foreigner” myth continues to plague the AAPI community. Embedded in the racial slurs hurled at Vincent decades ago and in the covid-related anti-Asian hate today is the perception that we are not fully American. Campaign ads feature China as an economic threat and villain to the American worker. This rush to scapegoat China reveals our political elite’s prioritization of the white working and middle class voting blocs.

So how does this keep happening? Why does the AAPI community continue facing waves of xenophobic backlash and how do we stop it?

In short, the answer is complicated. Inherent to the rich ethnic diversity of our community, we do not speak with a unified voice. We lack coordination and strategy around messaging. Our communities are often smaller and disconnected. We don’t boast the same tradition of coordinated civic engagement as other communities of color. Alone, we simply haven’t commanded the same political clout. 

Enter the AAPI Clearinghouse

The AAPI Clearinghouse provides a trusted forum for progressive AAPIs to gather from across the nation and ethnic lines. Through this platform, we can coordinate our political strategy, messaging, resources and organizing tactics across our diverse community.

On top of that, the Clearinghouse serves as a resource and deeply connected two-way network. Through this hub, grassroots groups can connect with top AAPI political operatives, politicians, and Party officials. For example, our semi-structured monthly calls offer our community a space to co-create solutions and lobby for these ideas. Where our community previously lacked cohesion and collaboration, the Clearinghouse can expand our strategic capacity, cultivate open discussions, and share ideas and innovations.

On May 4th, 2022, the AAAFund put this concept into practice. We convened an AAPI Clearinghouse panel with ASPIRE PAC Chair Rep. Grace Meng, DNC AAPI Caucus Chair Bel Leong-Hong, AAAF-Ohio Co-Chair Lisa Kuan, Executive Director at the Asian American Power Network Nadia Belkin, and DSCC Deputy Executive Director Jessica Knight-McHenry. During the panel, speakers discussed how candidates can shape an effective narrative about China and addressed the dangerous potential of anti-China ads to harm the AAPI community. The panelists ultimately centered on seven key insights for candidates to focus on and guide their messaging.

Representative Grace Meng of New York secured millions of federal dollars to help combat anti-Asian hate crimes

Organizing for Tomorrow

Forty years ago, Vincent Chin’s murder sparked a torrent of progressive AAPI activism to fight for our recognition as full, equal American citizens. Now, the AAPI Clearinghouse seeks to honor and build on this activist tradition. We hope to coordinate organizing and messaging to increase our political clout. Together, activists, political operatives, and the Party can develop culturally competent, inclusive narratives that compete with messages of hatred and xenophobia. Our community can offer a vision for a future that embraces the all communities of color as a co-equal in our vibrant, equitable America.

Unless clearly identified as statements of the AAA-Fund, the views, opinions, analyses, and assumptions expressed in each blog or clearinghouse post are those of the author or contributor alone, and not those of the AAA-Fund.