Olympian Suni Lee gets racially abused, says she “let it happen”

18 year old Suni Lee didn’t realise how her making history at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would not make her more acceptable to the public eye, more specifically the white people. On an exclusive interview with Popsugar, she told reporters how she has been a victim of a racially targeted attack right in the heart of Los Angeles and what was worse, she neither reacted to it nor could she do anything to prevent it. According to her, she just “let it happen”. 

Suni Lee in an interview with Popsugar, recalled how she had been out in the city enjoying the nightlife with friends, all of Asian descent when a group of people sped by her hurling racist slurs and abuses. Lee who has graduated from Auburn University, was waiting with her friends for an Uber ride when the scaffold took place. The abusers asked them to “go back to where they came from” and one of them allegedly attacked Lee with a can of pepper spray; luckily for her she only got hit on her arm and was not fatally injured. 

Lee recently made history at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, where she was the first-ever Hmong American gymnast to compete for Team USA. She was the all-around champion and uneven bars bronze medallist for 2020 and even in the previous year won gold at the 2019 World Championships. With a total of 6 world championship and Olympic medals, she is tied with Gabby Douglas, Kim Zmeskal, Kyla Ross, and Rebecca Bross as the 9th most decorated American female gymnast. Even after having such a stellar career and reputation for herself and for America, she has found herself victimised to such racially motivated hate attacks and speech. This attack comes not as a shock bit more as a tragic occurrence, one which most non-whites have had to accept quietly over the years, in as cosmopolitan an atmosphere that USA is known for. 

“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” the Minnesota native recalled during her interview. “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.”

Lee was already suffering from too much stress owing to a tight work schedule and mental health problems. She was participating as a contestant on season 30 of Dancing With the Stars and put crazy pressure and expectations unto herself. When she got ran out of the reality show stage after performing on Queen night, she opened up to her fans on social media regarding her mental health. She was seen clutching her stomach as she went offstage, which later her partner Sasha Farber, explained was due to a hard week at rehearsals. On Monday however the duo got back on stage and set it afire. Sasha noted, “I always tell Suni, like, she has just had this in her system trying to come out, and I’m so glad that it just came out today on the dance floor. … Today was just magical.”

Suni however took to Instagram about her mental health and the recently faced racial abuse. 

“Mental health is definitely a very sensitive topic for me because it’s hard for me to speak out about anything because I feel like just the whole world is watching me right now…if I say the wrong thing, people will be like, ‘Oh, she’s just doing it for attention,’ [and] all this stuff. So it’s definitely very hard, but there’s just so much that a lot of people don’t know about, which makes it really difficult when I have to go on social media and see bad comments about myself or people just talking bad about me,” she said, following which she received immense love and support from her fans and friends.

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