Olympic champion Sunisa Lee says she was sprayed with pepper spray in a racist attack | US news


Olympic Games | The Guardian

US Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee has announced that weeks after she won gold at the Tokyo Games, she was sprayed with pepper in a racist drive-by attack.

Lee, 18, was waiting for an Uber in Los Angeles after a night out with a group of friends who are all Asian. A car drove by and its passengers began shouting anti-Asian slurs, telling Lee and her friends to “go back where they came from.” A passenger sprayed pepper spray on Lee’s arm as the car sped away, said Lee, who became the first American Hmong Olympic gold medalist and first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in all-around gymnastics that year.

“I was so mad, but I couldn’t do anything or control anything because they were walking away,” Lee revealed in a recent interview with PopSugar. “I haven’t done anything to them and, having a reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen, “she added.

The attack occurred in October while Lee was in Los Angeles filming Dancing with the Stars.

Lee grew up in a closely knit Hmong community in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her parents emigrated from Laos before she was born and settled in the city that is home to the largest Hmong community in the United States.

The Hmong people are a displaced ethnic group from Southeast Asia who sided with the United States during the Vietnam War. After the war, the Hmong remaining in Laos were persecuted, conscripted into forced labor and taken to concentration camps. As a result, many, including Lee’s family, fled the country.

Since the coronavirus was first reported in China, members of Asian-American and Pacific islanders in the United States have been exposed to bigotry and racism in the form of verbal harassment and physical assault. Many blame Donald Trump for fueling anti-Asian sentiments by using racist terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” when referring to the coronavirus.

More than 9,000 anti-Asian incidents have been reported since last March. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that investigates and responds to racially motivated crimes against Americans in Asia and the Pacific Islands, 4,548 hate crimes occurred in 2020 and an additional 4,522 in 2021.

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