Rev. Norman Fong, 7/26/05, San Francisco
Recorded by Reese Erlich
This is Rev. Norman Fong, the former co-founder of Asian Americans for Justice. ///
Asian Americans for Justice was the Bay Area branch of the national.
We gathered together because we were shocked with what happened in the Vincent Chin case. Lilly China came to Bay Area. That galvanized a lot of action.
Chin was celebrating marriage. Auto workers pissed off at Japanese. He looked Asian enough. They got in an altercation. Ebbens and Nitz followed him with a baseball bat.
They got away with it scot free except for a $3000 fine. It was amazing in America that this would happen. No justice.
The Asian American community is deemed to be very passive. /// There have also been small movements in our history where we have fought back in different ways. My dad /// was in Angel Island. Sometimes they did fight back.
There are some Asian Americans, upper middle class, who think money buys everything. I think this case shocked them. Oh my gosh there’s no justice. This is the 1980s, not the 50s. /// The sector of Asian Americans who thought they had it made with money, it woke them up too.
The model minority myth is that if you got bucks and keep your nose clean, /// we’ll be ok. There’s still racism that impacts all minority groups.
Also the Wen Ho Lee woke up a lot of professionals. They felt they would be treated differently.
Racism permeates all of society. /// The Wen Ho Lee case is just a reminder that racism is very much alive in America.
There’s 2 Americas. There’s the mythical America. Everyone can make it in America. It’s colorless and classless. Then there’s the real America, which is one of struggle. We have to fight to keep the democratic principles alive. We have to participate in all movements for justice and equality.
Personally the Vincent Chin case hurt me the most. I was fresh out of the seminary. /// I really thought we would win that case. Jesse Jackson came. There was so much momentum. We all though America would stand up for justice. It was a shock.
Just from nickels and dimes on the street, we raised $22,000 in a few hours.
The Vincent Chin may have been an emotionally charged accident, some people would say. But the Wen Ho Lee case was definitely not an accident. We have to hold accountable our government on this one.
no debate in SF if it was a hate crime.
One of the most powerful things that happened in the Chin case, 82-3, all kinds of folks – African Americans, Jewish, labor – they all came out to join us. For me it was kind of amazing.
Everybody wanted to be part of it. We got a lion head and marched everyone through the community. It was a powerful movement of solidarity.
On the 20th anniversary we tried to remember it. Lily Chin passed away. We never got to see justice for her son.
The struggle for justice for the Arab community today, it’s our struggle too. The struggle to end the war. /// This stupid war is promoting more racism in some ways. It connects. The Asian American struggle for civil rights, jump started by the Vincent Chin case, it changed the hearts and minds of a lot of Asian Americans. /// Asian America will never be the same.
Vincent Chin wasn’t even close to being Japanese. It woke up a lot of people. Labor should have been held more accountable. “Those damn Japs.” AFL CIO original platform was Chinese must go. I’m talking 1800s.
I see recent history repeating itself. Rounding up the Arab Americans today, it’s the same thing. Japanese Americans, JACL, a lot of folks involved in the Vincent Chin case, came out right away to join the protests. I was there at the INS saying “what are you doing?” We never learn.
Chin represents same oppression as Martin Luther King fought. Same as Iraqis overseas.
The post 9/11 roundup of Arab Americans is the same thing that happened around Vincent Chin’s time. It’s the same thing that happened to Japanese Americans. /// cheap scape goating.
On 9/11 one of the first flight attendants killed was a friend, an Asian American. Media totally ignored Asian American heroine. Dehumanization of Asian Americans is happening again and again.
Increasing hatred among ethnic and religious groups. That ain’t going to work. Terrorism is not about a culture or race. There’s not a certain race causing economic problems in America like Vincent Chin. /// It’s the same cheap shots, stereotyping attitudes, really killing the attitudes of what America is supposed to be about.
I work with different youth groups. They were at the trial of these kids, 5 Asian high school kids beat up in SF. 20 drunken white kids felt like beating up on the Asians. One kid caught was given probation. Today you can beat up kids and get probation.
A little over a year ago (see above)