US Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee said she was pepper-sprayed in an anti-Asian racist attack… A US Olympic gold medalist said she was a victim of an anti-Asian attack where she was pepper-sprayed by a group of people in a car yelling racist slurs and telling her and her friends to “go back to where they came from.”
Suni Lee, 18, who was the first Hmong American to win a gold medal during the Tokyo Olympics, said in an interview with Pop Sugar that she was waiting for an Uber with a group of friends, who are also of Asian descent when they were approached by a group of people yelling racist slurs like “ching chong.”
One passenger in the car sprayed Lee’s arm with pepper spray as the car sped away, the athlete said.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she said of the incident. “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.”
The gymnast said the attack happened just one week prior to her interview with Pop Sugar, which was published Wednesday. It comes as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic sparked an epidemic of discrimination and racism against those of Asian descent in America, largely in part due to the racist rhetoric centered on blaming China for the pandemic.
The anti-Asian hate also prompted a surge in violence against Asian Americans, particularly elders in the community. In March, a 75-year-old Asian-American man died after an assault and robbery left him brain-dead in Oakland, California.
Just two days later, an 83-year-old Korean American woman was punched unconscious and spat on in New York. An Asian woman was in the car with her son when a man threw rocks at her car, and another Asian woman was stabbed to death in California in Riverside, California, in April.
In March, at least eight people — a majority of whom were Asian American women — were killed in shootings at Asian massage parlors.
Nearly 3,800 incidents were reported between March 2020 and February 2021, according to data collected by the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, which runs a reporting center that tracks and responds to incidents of violence, harassment, shunning, and bullying against AAPI individuals.
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