What Chloe Kim Means To Me as an Asian American

Chloe Kim, at the age of only 17, made history at the Winter Olympics 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea as the youngest woman to ever win an Olympic snowboarding medal, snatching the gold in the women’s snowboard halfpipe with a final score of 98.25—eight-and-a-half points ahead of silver medalist Liu Jiayu. Her win not only solidified her place as the “Olympic Golden Girl” of this season, but also as the pride of her fellow Asian Americans.

            In the U.S., Asian Americans make up about 5% of the entire population, yet that number appears smaller still with the severe underrepresentation of Asian Americans in mainstream media. Moreover, most media exposure of this minority group perpetuates harmful stereotypes—"if you’re Asian, you can’t be good at sports, you’re good at math” and “if you’re Asian, you must want to become a doctor”, to name a few. Furthermore, media exposure also reinforces the idea that Asians simply are not or cannot be American. For example, Asian characters in television and film more often than not speak heavily accented or broken English, perpetuating that all Asians in the U.S. must be recent immigrants. But what about the generations upon generations of Asian Americans who speak perfect English? Why are they virtually nonexistent in these portrayals? It’s this kind of misrepresentation that has spread the idea that Asian Americans are foreigners (and thus un-American) and spawned the age-old question: “No, like, where are you really from?”

            Kim, like most Asian Americans, has received this question frustratingly often. In an interview with the Huffington Post, she stated: “I always get the question, like, ‘Where are you from?’ L.A. ‘No, where are you really from?’ I was born in Long Beach. ‘No, no, like, where are you really, really from?’ I always get that question. It’s never, like, my first answer would be, ‘I’m from Korea,’ or, like, ‘I’m Korean.’ It’s always, like, ‘I’m American.’”

Despite the widespread stereotype that Asians lack athleticism and the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in professional sports, Kim manages to succeed through hard work and perseverance. Thus, the gold medalist serves as an inspiration and role model for other young Asian Americans to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be. It's incredibly important for them to see a fellow Asian American earn such honor and prestige and be celebrated in mainstream media. Additionally, Kim is as a beacon of hope for the future of Asian American representation and public awareness. Hopefully, as people see more and more Asian Americans like Kim representing Team USA at the Olympics and playing more three-dimensional roles in television and film, they will understand that this minority group is every bit as “American” as they are, and that Asian Americans are far more than what stereotypes imply.