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Detroit, US: Lily Chin and Asian-Americanism (2)

Mao’s communist regime closed China off from the outside world, forcing Lily to lose touch with her family back home. Instead, Lily and Chin Hing focused on building their own family.

However, Lily lost her first baby during pregnancy and was forced to undergo an operation that left her unable to bear children. The couple would eventually adopt a chubby six-year-old from Hong Kong. Lily’s life was finally on track and their son Vincent grew into a smart, kind and hard-working young man.

Vincent Chin
But life would take another tragic turn. First, Lily lost Chin Hing to a kidney disease in the winter of 1981-82. Half a year later, Vincent was brutally murdered in a hate-crime that shocked the nation.

During Vincent’s bachelor party at a strip club with some friends, he got into an argument with two workers in Detroit’s auto industry, at the time suffering from the success of Japan’s cheaper cars. Taking Vincent for a Japanese, one yelled: “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work!” A fight broke out and the two men bashed Vincent’s skull with a baseball bat. He died four days later.

No Hollywood ending
Lily buried her son on the day of his planned wedding. She spent the next years tirelessly fighting for justice in the courts and participating in the civil rights movement. In the end, the court ruled that the two men were to pay USD 3,780; neither were sentenced to jail. Vincent Chin’s case galvanized the political consciousness among Asian Americans. For the first time, the Asian American community came out as one, fighting against racial injustice.

However, for Lily, the injustice was too much to bear. She left the US and returned to her native village in Guangzhou province in China. She passed away in 2002.

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