Crossing Boundaries and Standing Up for Justice Together. NoH8. Remembering Vincent Chin
Something fabulous, certainly. But I am such an awkward dresser, I worry and I fret.
Oh! If only I had one of George Takei’s “It’s OK to be Takei” t-shirts. That would have been the perfect connector between the Asian American and LGBT communities. Instead, I opt for urban black, add my most fabulous big red hat, and try as best as I can to channel George Takei’s black t-shirt cool.
Think cool. Gotta be cool.
The very cool Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey had asked me to speak about the Vincent Chin case at Ferndale Pride‘s Light the Night against Hate, a family-friendly candle-lit walking tour around downtown Ferndale for folks from all backgrounds to “learn more about historical and contemporary issues surrounding hate in our schools and communities, including hateful speech in social media and online bullying…[and] to visibly unite against hate.”
It was a beautiful and warm Friday night, lots of folks downtown, laughter and music spilling out of all the restaurants and bars.
When Covey was the mayor of Ferndale, he was instrumental in having two Vincent Chin memorial plaques—one from the State Bar of Michigan and one from the City of Ferndale—installed at Woodward and Nine Mile, by what was once the Golden Star restaurant where Vincent Chin worked as a waiter on the weekends and where American Citizens for Justice held all their organizational meetings. I had been so impressed by his remarks at that time:
“Over the centuries almost every group that has made this place home have suffered poor treatment and indignities, including the Irish, the Jews, Catholics, and so many others….Equal justice in America is not a given. It is not a guarantee…rather…it is a constant struggle. It takes vigilance and effort and energy. We must always strive toward fair and equal justice, knowing that it may never be fully achieved.”
My assignment this summer evening was to stand by the plaques and talk about the Vincent Chin case, American Citizens for Justice, and my blog and postcard project at RememberingVincentChin.com as we come up on the 30th anniversary of the baseball bat beating death of Vincent Chin.
Such a diverse group of the folks participated in the walk—many races, many ages, many religions, many orientations. Some of the older people actually remembered Vincent Chin from when he waited tables at the Golden Star Restaurant. To them, he was a guy from the neighborhood, a guy they knew. The younger people were shocked that such a thing could happen, that a man could kill another man because of the way he looked and never spend a day in jail.
As I told the story of the Vincent Chin case, I encouraged folks to see past differences and recognize that we all have a lot more in common than not. We cannot always afford the luxury of dividing down various lines, keeping in our separate groups. Rather, there is power in coalitions and alliances. We are all in this together.
As Ferndale Pride’s Light the Night against Hate drew to a close, my new friend Nkosi took me to see what else was going on at the event. We visited with County Commissioner Covey, we went to the Affirmations LGBT community center, we took photographs as part of the NoH8 campaign, and we went to the park where folks were lighting candles.
Good vibes all around. It was a good place to be that night.
At the same time, I was also following, via Detroit Free Press religion reporter Niraj Warikoo’s Twitter feed, the craziness going down only a few miles away at the Arab International Festival in Dearborn. Christian missionaries had arrived with a pig’s head and hateful signs to harass (and somehow convert?) Muslims, and Arab American kids had begun fighting back, asking “Why are you doing this,” throwing water, and shouting back, “Allah-U-Akbar” (God is the greatest).
Ironically, the Christian missionaries called Bible Believers were only scheduled to protest the Arab festival that Friday night because Saturday they were planning to protest a gay festival in Ohio.
We are all in this together.
Note: More information about the Vincent Chin case and Frances Kai-Hwa Wang’s postcard project at RememberingVincentChin.com.
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media Ethnoblog, Chicagoistheworld.org, PacificCitizen.org, and InCultureParent.com. She team-teaches Asian Pacific American History and the Law at the University of Michigan and University of Michigan Dearborn. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at franceskaihwawang.com, her blogs at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com and rememberingvincentchin.com, and she can be reached at email@example.com.