From Flickr Creative Commons by Andy Miah
Olympic gold medalist Chloe Kim revealed her painful history with racist, hateful messages and their negative impact on her mental health and sense of safety in an interview with ESPN.
The comments stretch as far back as Kim’s first medal at X Games Aspen when she was 13. After posting a picture of her silver medal in the halfpipe to an Instagram account with hundreds of thousands of followers, she was flooded with notifications of disparaging, racist comments.
“People belittled my accomplishment because I was Asian,” Kim told ESPN. “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?’”
Seven years later, at age 20, Kim still receives a discouraging number of hateful messages targeting her because of her race. She told ESPN that she receives hundreds of similar messages every month, up to 30 per day. Earlier this week, she posted to her Instagram story a screenshot of a direct message she received that read, “You dumb Asian b—. Kiss my ass.”
“I get hundreds of these messages and it breaks my heart that people think this type of behavior is okay,” Kim added in the story. “I feel really helpless and afraid at times. I’m really struggling.”
Now, Kim said that she is afraid to leave the house. “I never go anywhere by myself unless it’s for a quick appointment or I know the place is crowded,” she told ESPN. “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.”
This same fear extends to her parents in light of a slew of attacks on elderly Asian 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 said. “I’m scared all the time.”
The toll that constant pain and hurt has had on her mental health has led Kim to remove herself from social media and interactions with fans. She told ESPN that she turned off her social media notifications and deleted the Instagram app from her phone for part of the past year.
“I used to love responding to my fans, but I don’t look at my messages much anymore,” Kim said. “Even if you get thousands of supportive messages, the hateful one will hit you the most.”
For Kim, it was especially difficult when she received messages condemning her for her silence on the exponential increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes in the past year. “I was getting messages from people telling me I’m part of the problem because I was being silent,” she said. “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.”
“Just because I am a professional athlete or won the Olympics doesn’t exempt me from racism,” Kim added.
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