Morgan Hurd said it never struck her that her adopted mother, Sherri, was a different race.
The U.S. gymnastics star — an Olympic team hopeful — said it was in her elementary school, when she first realized that her adoption from China made her different from her white mother and her mostly white classmates.
She didn’t feel different while at home, but she was being mocked at school, she said. She was teased about the shape of her eyes. She said she was told to go back to China. She mentioned being asked if she ate dogs.
“News flash: These aren’t jokes. They’re racist remarks,” Hurd said Sunday in New York during the Stop Asian Hate rally, one of many anti-racism events worldwide to protest against violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Hurd said she was recently yelled at for being Chinese, too.
“I am disgusted that the people who claim to love the culture — anime, sushi, boba, matcha, fashion, etc. — don’t love or appreciate the people,” she said.
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Hurd said she was hurt by the uptick in violence against Asian people. Some 17% of Asian Americans reported sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats and other incidents, up from 11% last year.
The 19-year-old gymnast, who is preparing for the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials ahead of the rescheduled 2020 games, said people shouldn’t blame the virus on an entire race “in place of the blame for the government’s inadequate and incompetent response to Covid-19.”
“So many of us were either born here or have been here and call this place our home,” she said.
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Hurd said a recent quote by a teammate resonated with her: “It hurts to know that I have to represent people like that,” her teammate said.
“These people don’t want me representing them, not because of my skill level but because of my race,” Hurd said.
“I don’t represent them. I represent all of you. I will not let this tear me down, because I want to be part of the representation of our Asian youth.”
The Sunday rally in New York was not Hurd’s first appearance at a social movement over the last year. She attended a women’s march in Washington in October and was using some of her forced downtime from the pandemic to use her voice.
In an interview with Olympic Channel, Hurd explained why she was doing it.
“Speaking out about all the social injustice in the world, the Black Lives Matter movement and voting, racism, sexism, homophobia, everything is just very important to me,” she said.
“It’s something that I feel very deeply about on all counts, and I’ve been blessed to be given a very large following and a platform. I don’t think that I should let it go to waste and stay silent because silence is compliance.
“It makes me very proud to be from Delaware and to be a part of this community that there are so many people that are willing to stand up for what is right, no matter if there were consequences or not. Thankfully, both of the protests I went to were very peaceful.”
Hurd, a two-time World Championships gold medalist (2017, all-around, 2018 team), was featured in an Olympic Channel docu-series leading up to the Tokyo games.
Before the pandemic pause, she won the American Cup in March 2020 after missing the 2019 World Championships. Every female gymnast to do so during an Olympic year made the Olympic team.
Hurd still has the U.S. Classic in May and then the U.S. nationals and Olympic trials to compete at in June, when we’ll learn if the Delawarean adopted from Wuzhou, China, realizes her lifelong dream.
Follow Jeff Neiburg at on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.