With the cooperation of his estate, the 1982 murder
of Vincent Chin
, which sparked a nationwide movement of Asian American activism that is still relevant today and growing, will be dramatized in a television
, the company behind social-justice films and TV shows such as "Spotlight" and "When They See Us," will develop and produce the series, the company announced Thursday.
For the first time, the series has the blessing and participation of Chin's estate, which is managed by Helen Zia, the pioneering Asian American journalist
and activist who led efforts to seek justice for Chin following his murder. Before her death
in 2002, Chin's mother, Lily, appointed Zia, whom she considered a daughter, as executor of the estate.
Chin, then 27, was celebrating his upcoming wedding in Detroit
in June 1982 when he was brutally beaten by two white autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, who were enraged by the decline of the US auto industry and the rise of Japanese car manufacturers, outsourcing, and economic deregulation, and mistook Chin, who was Chinese American, for a Japanese man.
Chin died as a result of his injuries a few days later, and Ebens and Nitz were sentenced to prison
time for their crimes.
Chin's murder and aftermath marked a watershed moment in Asian American history
and activism; it was one chapter in a long history of anti-Asian racism
and violence in America; another is currently underway as Asian Americans
face an alarming surge in racist
attacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
Chin's murder and the rise of Asian American activism were documented in an Oscar-nominated documentary
by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Pea in 1987, but aside from that and a few other documentaries
and books, the topic is rarely covered in general history classes or portrayed in pop culture.
However, in light of its renewed relevance today, there have been more recent attempts to tell Chin's story, some of which have sparked controversy.
The creators of a new podcast about Chin's murder, "Hold Still, Vincent," pulled the project from podcast feeds earlier this week after not contacting Zia and Chin's estate.
“Creators — please check in with community people
who lived these experiences, including the estate of Lily and Vincent Chin,” Zia wrote on Instagram
. “The AAPI
community and its activists deserve that respect. I’m not dead yet, and it’s strange hearing/seeing myself fictionalized by people who have never tried to connect with me or the Estate.”
The new television series bills itself as the "only authorized telling of the landmark civil rights
“With exclusive access from this pivotal moment in Asian American history, the series will reveal the definitive account of a civil rights movement that matters today more than ever, when a community discovered its voice,” said Participant Media in a statement.
Together with producers Vicangelo Bulluck, Paula Madison, and Donald Young, director of programs at the Center for Asian American Media, Zia will serve on the series' creative team.
They said in a joint statement, "we understand the responsibility in ensuring that this story is culturally and historically accurate, and respects Vincent Chin's legacy."
“At a time when there was intense anti-Asian hatred across the country, Vincent Chin’s brutal slaying galvanized Asian Americans to rally together, unite with many diverse communities, and create a new movement for racial justice
that impacted all Americans,” Zia said in a statement.
“With today’s global tsunami of anti-Asian hatred, the full story of Vincent Chin and the powerful community response must be told, and I’m thrilled that Participant will be leading this effort.”