Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Q&A with Aamina Ahmed

Monday, June 19th 2017

This week marks the 35th anniversary of Vincent Chin’s tragic beating and subsequent death. Asian Americans Advancing Justice commemorates this anniversary by sharing conversations with people who were involved with or were affected by Vincent Chin’s case.

Today’s conversation is with Aamina Ahmed is the executive director of APIA Vote Michigan and has a long spree of working towards inclusion in the region, across race, ethnicity, and religion.

What does the Vincent Chin case mean to you?  

One of my greatest sources of inspiration is Grace Lee Boggs, and Grace’s work around the Vincent Chin case and they way she talked about it and the way it propelled her organizing strategy was really inspiring to me. I didn’t actually live in Michigan when the incident took place, so for me, it was an incident that was referred to historically. But the fact that such a terrible incident could allow her and others to forge a path moving forward versus getting embroiled in negativity, which would also have been a possibility.  

What are lessons to learn from the Vincent Chin case? Are there any specific lessons that you think are especially relevant now, at this particular moment in time?

Given all the negative rhetoric and the inflammatory words and actions that highlighted people’s differences versus commonalities in the last election cycle and the sharp hate crimes leaves me to believe the lessons learned are deeply relevant. I think one of the biggest lessons that a lot of people learned from the Vincent Chin case was that differences may not be along the lines that are being highlighted by the media or the mainstream. Anytime we don’t invest in relationship and trust building, there can be differences or people feeling marginalized or displaced and that can result in really horrible things.

How do you think Vincent Chin's case affected the AAPI community?

I think it shocked the AAPI community especially the AAPI community in Michigan where Asian community, by and large, don’t live in large densities. So we’re pretty dispersed. I think The incident really shocked people from what I heard. I think it propelled some of them to get organized. I think some people took the opportunity to start having conversations and dialogue and building bridges. But some people, unfortunately, reacted by siloing themselves further because of fear. So I think it had both reactions.

What do you think is Vincent Chin’s legacy, 35 years after his death in Detroit?

Social justice and pan-Asian power. For instance, American Citizens for Justice, which was formed after the Vincent Chin case, is having a celebration for the 35th death anniversary this year, and if you look at the number of organizations co-sponsoring it, I think that really reflects the pan-Asian power part.

 

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Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.