The Coronavirus Is No Excuse for Casual Racism

A fellow passenger on a recent flight seemed worried I was infected with the coronavirus. Was it because I’m Asian?

Miroo Kim
GEN
Published in
4 min readFeb 24, 2020

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Passengers at Ben Gurion International Airport on February 27, 2020. Photo: Jack Guez/Getty Images

LLast month, I boarded a return flight from Miami to San Francisco. When I got to my seat, I noticed the couple next to me was wearing face masks. This was around two weeks after the first public reports of the coronavirus outbreak, so I didn’t think much of it. I assumed they were simply taking precautions to avoid getting sick. Then, just five minutes into the flight, I took a gulp of water. It went down the wrong pipe, and I coughed several times. In that moment, I could feel the man in the mask staring at me. His face was mostly covered, but I could see his lingering glare. Then I realized: He probably thought I was carrying the coronavirus.

I noticed then that I was the only Asian person seated in our section of the plane. Maybe this man wrongly assumed I was from China, which at the time was at the epicenter of the outbreak. Maybe he was worried that I risked spreading the virus. With all these questions swirling in my head, as his stare made me feel increasingly uncomfortable, I saw that the row next to mine was nearly empty; I moved to a different seat. Only then did the man finally stop staring at me.

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Miroo Kim
GEN
Writer for

I teach how to be emotionally intelligent to live a life of wellbeing. I am curious about how to design wholehearted life for everyone.