Saratoga Springs Mayor Ron Kim recalled being the target of racism and hate while running for mayor in a recent interview.
In the exclusive interview with News Channel 13, Kim spoke about dealing with racist and hateful messages during his first run for mayor in 2009.
Kim, who is Korean American, has been called racial slurs and names referencing North Korea’s leader, such as “Dictator Kim” and “Kim Jong II.”
“It’s unfortunate, but you’re going to get that,” he said. “It’s in the rough and tumble of politics.”
Kim made history by becoming New York’s first Asian American city mayor when he was sworn in as the mayor of Saratoga Springs at the beginning of this year.
The 43-year-old mayor was a member and later the chairperson of the Saratoga Springs Zoning Board of Appeals from 1996 to 2004. He also served as the commissioner of Public Safety for two terms in Saratoga Springs from 2005 to 2010.
During the interview, he also recalled his youngest son, Steven, receiving a racist text message after coming home from a high school hockey game.
“Somebody on the opposing team called him a ‘gook,’” he recalled to Channel 13. “My son didn’t even know that it was a slur. I had to explain it to him. I remember thinking maybe I failed to prepare him for some of what happens out there in the world.”
According to recent data released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander community increased by 342% across the U.S. last year.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks anti-Asian attacks, reported 10,370 incidents between March 19, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021. New York had the largest increase in anti-Asian hate crimes year over year at 343%.
Asians make up only 3% of the Saratoga Springs population, while white people make up 88% of the city.
“Saratoga Springs will probably always be a majority … white population, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make room for minorities and have an appropriate place for them,” Kim said.