Olympic Karate Athlete Sakura Kokumai Was Target of Racist Rant While Training at Park: 'I Was Scared'
Sakura Kokumai, a 28-year-old Asian American martial artist with Team USA, said a man yelled racist insults at her as she trained at a park in Southern California.
The seven-time USA National Champion was at Grijalva Park in Orange, California, when a man began berating her in front of other guests in the area, where she was training for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. She recorded the incident on her smartphone, which she posted to her Instagram page over the weekend.
"Couldn't stop thinking about what happened yesterday," Kokumai wrote in the post. "Still processing... Usually I like to keep my social media positive, but I realized that these issues needs to be addressed so we can protect each other."
"Yes what happened was horrible," she continued. "But I don't know which was worse, a stranger yelling and threatening to hurt me for no reason or people around me who witnessed everything and not doing a thing."
In the video, the man is seen shouting at Kokumai to "get away" from him and challenges her to "do something." He then calls her a "loser" and tells her to "go home."
"In that moment, I thought, 'gosh, this guy is just crazy.' But when I zoomed out I realized there were a lot of people at the park," Kokumai recalled in her post. "Yes, a [woman] did come up and asked if I was ok towards the end as it escalated... but for the longest time no one cared. People would walk by, some even smiled. And I didn't know what to do."
While she said the man did not use racial slurs at first, Kokumai heard him shout "Chinese" and "Sashimi" as he eventually drove away.
"Obviously I was scared," she told KTLA. "I think in the video you can see I was kind of laughing but at that moment, you really don't know what to do."
There has been an alarming spike in attacks on members of the Asian American community. A report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino found that hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by nearly 150 percent in 2020, despite hate crimes overall dropping by 7 percent.
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"This could have happened to anyone, if it wasn't me, someone could've gotten hurt," Kokumai wrote on Instagram.
"We need to take care of each other. Why is it so hard to treat people with respect... yes, everyone is fighting inner battles but have RESPECT. REACH OUT. BE KIND. ITS NOT THAT HARD," she added. "I was angry, frustrated, confused, scared, but I was also heartbroken to see and experience how people could be so cold... Please take care of each other. Please look out for one another."
To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer on NBC.
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.