On Tuesday, October 2nd at 4:30, I found myself in the Center for the Arts screening room, watching the thought provoking documentary Vincent Who about a hate crime against a Chinese-American, and the injustice against racial groups in America as a whole. I leaned about this screening through an announcement in class, but also through the Undergraduate Academies, which also sent email announcements to students involved in the Academies in one way or another. As this event featured a film about Asian-Americans, I could not self-identify with the targeted group, and I am very interested in learning more about ethnic cultures, especially as they pertain to these groups coming to America and becoming a part of the American population and culture. This event seemed like the perfect event to attend for this assignment because it not only fulfilled the requirement for an event with which I do not self-identify with the target group or club, but it is also something I am interested in.
The average sized room was moderately full, with many Asian-Americans and Asians taking up a good portion of the demographics, with smaller amounts of other groups being represented. The group as a whole seemed to be made up of a large number of individuals, with a few couples and small groups in attendance as well. Despite the demographics favoring the targeted group, the Asians and Asian-Americans, no one group was singled out by having only a few individuals present. There were ample people of all nationalities and backgrounds, no one seemed to feel left out or uncomfortable. The majority of the people seemed to be the type of people that wanted to make a difference in the world and were there to learn more about activist movements to gain more rights for these minority groups. I got this impression by the small pieces of peoples’ conversations that I heard as I found my way to my seat and waited for the film to begin. Many of the conversations I heard were about who is this Vincent that the film is about, what movements and protests have been or will be held in favor of the Asian-American community, and what made these movements to gain rights for racial groups in America so important. I knew that I was learning so much about the importance of ethnic studies and understanding the importance of being educated in ethnic studies before the film had even begun.
After about 15 minutes, the presenters stood up in front of the group and spoke briefly about the film and its importance to the Asian-American community, as well as other ethnic groups in America. Then the film began, and from the opening interviews, I was intrigued. The story of Vincent Chin was fascinating and quite sad to me. Vincent Chin was a young man, soon to be married and thought he had a bright and promising future ahead of him in this land of opportunities we call America. Unfortunately, when he was at a bar one night, he was violently attacked by two white men who were outraged by the influx of Asians into their city. A number of reasons why the white people felt such disdain towards the Asian-Americans was in part due to the loss of jobs to the Asian workers. These two men beat Vincent with a baseball bat until his skull cracked, and he was put into a coma. In four days, he was dead. Although I have never been a mother who has lost a child to a hate crime, I could feel the pain that Vincent’s mother felt as footage of her weeping for her lost son flashed before my eyes. Then, an interview with his fiancé was shown, and my heart sunk into my stomach. I am newly engaged, and seeing the pain and sadness in the face of Vincent’s bride broke my heart thinking about being in her position and losing the man I love to such violence and hatred because of his heritage. I also was distraught by the results of the trial of his attackers, which turned out to be so minute; Vincent’s attackers did not spend one day in jail for what they did. They merely had to pay a small fine ($3000) and were subjected to 3 years of probation. Even though I do not self-identify with the community highlighted in this community, I was outraged by the judge’s decision to bring the charges on these men down from manslaughter. At this point in the screening, I was as enraged as if I was a part of this racial group by this injustice towards a racial group.
Throughout the rest of the film, I started to want to make a difference in this movement with the Asian-Americans, although I cannot truly be a part of their community. The film was a very eye-opening media to someone in what is considered the majority of the American population, as a white female. I learned that there was, and is, more to the civil rights movement than just the African-American civil rights movement in the 1960’s. This film showed the ugly side of America by showcasing the Vincent Chin hate crime which led to murder, but also by giving reference to other cases of hate crimes within the Asian-American community. This leads one to think about the bias that we as Americans may hold against those who do not look us “typical” Americans. This film made me sit back and consider why white Americans think that we are so privileged and better than other peoples that make up our great nation. What makes America great is its diversity and its acceptance of all peoples. There are so many people that contribute to our nation, many of them are not of the European decent and do not look like the “typical” American. Upon the ending of the film, I left with my head spinning, thinking of ways to help this cause, and to make a difference in the fight against injustice towards ethnic groups in America and gaining more rights for these racial groups. Attending this screening made me more aware of the injustice towards minority groups in America and made me not only want to be proud of the diversity in our nation, but also inspire others to be proud as well.