United States’ Olympic gymnast Suni Lee revealed that she was pepper sprayed in Los Angeles in an anti-Asian racist attack. Lee said she also faced racist slurs while visiting her hometown St Paul, Minnesota a few weeks ago.

Suni Lee is the 2020 Olympic all-around champion and uneven bars bronze medalist. She won a silver medal.

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During an interview with Pop Sugar, Lee spoke about the incident where she and her girlfriends, all Asian, faced racial slurs in an Uber. The remarks included statements such as “ching chong” and “go back to the country where they came from.”

“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee said.

Lee became the first Hmong-American gymnast to qualify for the Olympics. 

“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 18-year-old added. 

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“When I shared that I was feeling down, so many people reached out and either sent positive messages of encouragement or told me they were feeling similarly and not to feel alone,” Lee said. “It’s OK to feel down sometimes, but what I’ve realized is that it’s important to express your feelings and ask for help. In the past, I might have pushed on and not acknowledged the state of my mental health. But there’s so much power in owning your feelings. It’s not weakness, it’s actually taking control.”

As per Stop AAPI Hate, there were over 9,000 racially motivated attacks on members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities between March 2020 and June 2021. Over 4,500 of those incidents occurred in the first six months of 2021.