Human rights activist Yeonmi Park, who defected from North Korea, criticized the “unthinkable” actions of Team USA hammer thrower Gwen Berry after she turned her back to the American flag as the national anthem played.
During the playing of the anthem at an Olympic qualifier in Oregon, first-place finisher DeAnna Price and second-place finisher Brooke Anderson faced the flag with their hands over their heart. Berry, however, shifted to face the crowd and covered her head with a T-shirt that read, “Activist Athlete.”
“If she did the exact same thing at this very moment, if she was North Korean, not only herself will be executed, [also] eight generations of her family can be sent to political prison camp and execution,” Park said.
Berry does not know how good she and other Americans have it compared to dictatorships globally, Park said.
“I was a slave,” Park said, pointing to inhumane practices in China and North Korea. “I was sold in China in 2007 as a child at 13 years old. The people actually called it slavery under [the] Chinese Communist Party in North Korea.”
“There is actual injustice [there], and the fact that she’s complaining about this country — the most tolerant country — she doesn’t really understand history,” she added.
Responding to the criticism, Berry said she felt she was “set up” by the playing of the anthem and said her actions were misinterpreted.
“I never said that I hated the country,” she told the Black News Channel on Tuesday. “I never said that I didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games — that’s why I competed and got third and made the team.”
Later in the interview, Berry seemed to defend her actions.
“If you know your history, you know the full song of the national anthem, the third paragraph speaks to slaves in America, our blood being slain … all over the floor,” she said. “It’s disrespectful and it does not speak for black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.”
Park, however, said the Olympic-qualified athlete was “so privileged” and that she does not know what oppression under a dictatorship really looks like.
“In North Korea, people who are actually oppressed don’t even know they’re oppressed,” she said. “The fact that she’s complaining about oppression and systemic racism — she does not understand that she’s so privileged.”
“There are people dying to come to America at this very moment,” Park said. “I just hope they go to North Korea, China and see how humans are being oppressed, and they will truly understand how valuable the freedom that we have is.”
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Original Author: Lawrence Richard