Recently, 18-year-old Olympian, Suni Lee, experienced a racially motivated attack. Her story emphasizes that Asian-American hate is still a significant problem the country must face.
Suni Lee is an Asian-American gymnast and Olympian. In July, she won a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics and is now adjusting to fame and becoming a member of the public eye. In just a short matter of time, the 18-year-old went from attending college and living amongst a tight-knit community of Hmong Americans to winning medals, attending the Met Gala, and competing on Dancing with the Stars.
Despite all of Lee’s success, her fame and public presence does not stop her from being subjected to Asian-American hate. In a recent Pop-Sugar article, she reveals that she was recently pepper-sprayed in a racially motivated attack.
On November 10th, the world was informed of the incident from a Pop sugar interview written by Yerin Kim. You can read the article here.
Suni Lee has been staying in Las Vegas for her appearance on Dancing with the Stars; an experience that should be fun and exciting for the remarkable teen. However, Lee tells Kim that on a night out with her friends, who were also Asian, a truck full of people confronted the group while they were waiting for an Uber. She describes the attack and recalls that the people in the truck were yelling racial insults such as “ching chong” and telling her to “go back where you came from.” Horrifically, Lee mentions that one of the attackers even pepper-sprayed her arm before the truck fled the scene.
In the interview, Suni says, “I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she recalls. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.”
Her lack of control when reacting to the attack is heart-breaking. Lee is so young and she worked incredibly hard throughout her life to get where she is today. Yet, when all of her hard work starts to pay off, she is still a victim of the deep-rooted Asian-American hate embedded in our society.
It is evident from Suni’s story and other attacks on Asian Americans that this problem is not going away. COVID-19 has exacerbated racism towards Asian Americans; in the first quarter of 2021, attacks rose by 164%. Since 2020, the country has seen a lot of progressive movements towards racial equality and accountability. Clearly, the hate against Asian Americans needs more attention.
We can’t ignore the rising numbers of attacks. Hate crimes towards Asian Americans are prevalent in almost every community and city. It can be happening right next door to you, and it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest. Just the other day, I saw on the news that, in my own city, a group of Asian students were attacked and beat up by teenagers on a SEPTA subway.
Suni Lee’s story is just one out of hundreds of thousands. Hopefully her story and position can bring more attention to the issue. Asian-American hate needs to be addressed.
To help stop Asian American hate check out these resources: