A karate athlete who is scheduled to represent the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics says she was the victim of racial taunts as part of a bizarre incident at a park in Orange, California.
Last week on Instagram, Japanese American karateka Sakura Kokumai posted photos and videos of a white man yelling insults at her while she was training in Grijalva Park.
In one clip, the man accuses Kokumai of looking at him behind his back. In another, the assailant calls her “little,” a “stupid -----,” and a “loser.”
He also tells her to “go home” and threatens to physically attack her and her “husband or boyfriend.”
In the caption, the native of Hawaii said the majority of people who witnessed the attack did nothing to stop the man.
“Yes, a women 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,” she wrote.
“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.”
In an interview with KTLA 5 on Wednesday, Kokumai said the man began aggressively yelling at her out of nowhere.
“He was basically just yelling stuff like, ‘Don’t talk behind my back! Why are you looking at my car?!' So things like that that made me notice it could be something a little bit, I don’t know, off. So I let it be,” she said.
“Obviously, I was scared. 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.”
Kokumai says that when the man got into his car to leave, he allegedly called her racial slurs. It is unclear if the man was heard saying these alleged insults in her videos.
“I was aware about the anti-Asian hate that was going on. You see it almost every day on the news,” she said about the recent surge in violence against the Asian community. “But I didn’t think it would happen to me at a park I usually go to to train.”
As a future Olympic athlete, Kokumai feels an obligation to speak up against these kinds of incidents and to bring awareness to anti-Asian hate.
“I do know the responsibility of having the platform and being an athlete representing the U.S. so I really thought it’s important to raise awareness,” she said. “This is happening. This is real.”
Per KTLA 5, Kokumai has yet to report the incident to police.