Founded in 1973, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit, membership-driven organization based in Washington, D.C. with over 100 chapters and affiliates around the country. Like many others within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, OCA's work with hate crimes began in earnest after the murder of Vincent Chin.
In 1982, several members of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community were shocked by the news of the murder of a young Chinese American near Detroit, Michigan. Vincent Chin, 27, was attending his bachelor party at a bar when two unemployed auto workers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, thinking Chin was Japanese, directed racial and obscene comments at him.“It’s because of you little motherf****rs that we’re out of work,” witnesses recalled Ebens yelling at Chin.1 Nitz had been laid off from his job at an American car plant, and apparently blamed Chin for the correlation between his unemployment and rising Japanese imports into the American market.
The two men chased Chin outside, and beat him with baseball bats. He died four days later of his injuries. Equally shocking as the brutal nature of the murder was the court’s apparent lack of acknowledgment of the mens’ race-motivated behavior.The county judge found Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter after a plea bargain and sentenced them to three years probation, court fees, and a $3,780 fine.To many people, the sentence was a slap on the wrist.2
Even though the word “hate crime” was a relatively new term in public conversation at the time, some people in the APA community recognized that the race-based motive underlying Chin’s murder warranted a different response than the court gave. Several APA community leaders, including those within OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates(OCA),started to organize their own efforts to achieve justice for the Chin family and for the community. It was a watershed moment.
Today, one can see the legacy of the community organizing efforts arising from the Chin case. The APA community has made significant strides toward self- empowerment in the past 20 years and OCA and its chapters continue to fight for justice and fair treatment for all.
Recent advocacy includes fighting for better hazing policies within the Department of Defense to help find justice for Pvt. Danny Chen. This ultimately led to legislation that will help protect servicemembers from being harassed, bullied, or hazed while in the line of duty. Local chapters are also involved in efforts to stamp out school bullying by hosting workshops and rallies across the country.
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