To the individual who covered his face next to me in the library,
I get it. You’re scared of the coronavirus, and an Asian person sat next to you. Covering your face with your shirt was simply a precaution, even if shirts only marginally protect against virions. How can such a harmless act be offensive?
With zero reported cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina, the risk of anyone being infected with coronavirus at UNC is low. By covering your face in my presence, not only are you making the false assumption that I am infected with coronavirus, you are also signaling to others that I may be infected with coronavirus. Singling me out validates others’ fears, showing them that discriminatory acts are acceptable as long as they are precautionary. This mentality taken further is what fueled a hotel in Indiana to reject Asian customers and a man to assault an Asian woman wearing a face mask in the New York City subway.
While this may be seen as an overreaction, I would rather nip an issue in the bud than let small acts of discrimination culminate into the major ones mentioned above. So the next time you see an Asian person in the library, please avoid the urge to spontaneously cover your face, or, if you’re as cautious as you think, start your day with an N95 and experience what it feels like to have your appearance determine how you are treated because of a disease.