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Lee, 18, went public with her relationship last month, when she posted a photo of the couple wearing matching black hoodies to Instagram. In the caption, she added a single white heart emoji.
However, according to Lee, who became the first Asian American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around competition during the Tokyo Olympics, she has since experienced racist criticism, especially from those in the Hmong American community, because Smith is Black.
The gymnast addressed the racism the couple has encountered in response to a TikTok created by a man named Alix, who goes by the username @alixphom on the app, where he describes himself as half Hmong.
In a clip posted late last month, Alix filmed himself pointing to the Instagram photo of Lee and Smith before smiling and clapping for the couple. He concluded the brief supportive clip with a thumbs up.
In the caption, Alix acknowledged that Lee was likely being judged by members of the Hmong community for dating a Black man, before reiterating his support for the athlete.
“I know that Sunisa will be judged by certain eyes in the Hmong community because her man is Black. LOVE is LOVE, no matter what race or gender you are. Keep doing you QUEEN,” the TikToker wrote.
The video, which has been viewed more than 529,000 times, prompted a response from the 18-year-old gymnast, who revealed in the comments that the video made her “so happy” as she has been dealing with a lot of hatred since going public with her relationship.
I know that Sunisa will be judged by certain eyes in the Hmong Community because her man is Black. LOVE is LOVE, no matter what race or gender you are. Keep doing you QUEEN ✨ #hmong #hmongtiktok #hmonggirl #hmongsong #hmongcheck #hmongfyp #fyp #foryou #foryourpage
♬ H.K.I.T. - Chenning Xiong
“This makes me so happy. I’ve received so much hate. They support me when it’s beneficial for them, never when it comes to my happiness. Thank you!” Lee, a freshman at Auburn University, wrote.
The video also prompted praise from other viewers, with many expressing their own support for Lee, who made history at the Tokyo Games as the first Hmong American athlete to compete for Team USA at the Olympics.
“Beautiful couple. As long as they are happy, who cares what others think. Love is love!” one person wrote, while another said: “Keep doing you girl! Those who really support you will back you up and stick by your side no matter what.”
Lee’s comment comes after she previously revealed that she was the victim of a racially motivated attack in November. Speaking to PopSugar, the gymnast said that she had been with a group of friends in Los Angeles when a group driving by in a car yelled racist slurs at her and her friends. During the attack, Lee also said that she was pepper sprayed by one of the car passengers.
While reflecting on the incident, Lee said that she was “so mad” but that there was “nothing I could do or control because they skirted off”.
“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,” she added.