Olympic gold medalist and first-generation Korean American snowboarder Chloe Kim told ESPN that the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and hateful social media messages have taken a toll on her mental health.
In the interview with ESPN, Kim, 20, shared racist messages she has received in order to explain her everyday experiences with prejudice. The fact that she hasn't spoken out about the situation in the U.S. until now, she said, is not because she doesn't care, but because she was scared.
"I was getting messages from people telling me I'm part of the problem because I was being silent," Kim told ESPN. "I was like, 'Do you realize I'm also Asian American and this affects me?' It was a lot of white people telling me they were upset at my silence."
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"Just because I am a professional athlete or won the Olympics doesn't exempt me from racism," Kim said. "I get hundreds of those kinds of messages monthly. I see maybe 30 a day."
The abuse began when Kim was only 13, after she won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. After her victory, Kim posted a photo of her first-ever medal to her Instagram.
"People belittled my accomplishment because I was Asian," Kim said. "There were messages in my DMs telling me to go back to China and to stop taking medals away from the white American girls on the team. I was so proud of my accomplishment, but instead I was sobbing in bed next to my mom, asking her, 'Why are people being so mean because I'm Asian?' "
"After that moment, I stopped speaking Korean to my parents in public," Kim recounted to ESPN. "I was so ashamed and hated that I was Asian. I've learned to get over that feeling, and now I am so proud."
Over the next several years, as Kim became one of the most accomplished women in the sport, she continued to get a steady influx of offensive messages. She revealed she's even been spit on in public.
Kim noted in the interview that she didn't share those experiences with her friends, family or colleagues. This past year, as she's watched the aggression toward the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community escalate, she knew she could not stay silent any longer.
"I think it got worse when COVID started," Kim said. "I was trying to get in the elevator at my apartment one day and a woman was yelling at me and telling me no, you can't get in here. Sometimes I feel like everyone hates me because I am Asian."
Kim also said she worries about her parents because some of the attacks against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic have targeted older women and men. "Every time my parents step out the door, I think maybe I won't see them again or maybe I will get a call from the hospital that they were attacked," Kim told ESPN. "I'm scared all the time."
"I never go anywhere by myself unless it's for a quick appointment or I know the place is crowded," she explained. "I have Tasers, pepper spray, a knife. If I go outside to walk my dog or go to the grocery store, my fanny pack has all three of those in it and my hand never leaves my side."
In an effort to protect her mental health, Kim deactivated social media alerts and took Instagram off of her phone. "I used to love responding to my fans, but I don't look at my messages much anymore," she said in the interview. "Even if you get thousands of supportive messages, the hateful one will hit you the most."
If you've been attacked or have witnessed an attack, please contact your local authorities. You can also report your incident here. To learn more and to report crimes, go to: Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Stop the AAPI Hate, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council.
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