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Asian-American Kansas state rep describes threatening incident

Rui Xu Kansas State rep.jpg
Posted at 11:41 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-20 00:41:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An Asian-American Kansas state representative from Johnson County alleges that he was targeted Friday in west-central Kansas.

Riu Xu, who has represented the Kansas’ 25th District in the state’s House of Representatives since 2019, tweeted about an incident shortly after 10 p.m. on Friday.

He said was “pretty shook” after enduring threats and verbal assault at a bar in the “Hays/Bunker Hill” area, where he went out for dinner after recording a PBS show.

Xu said he ventured from the hotel “to grab a bite to eat and a drink at a sports bar that’s near the motel just to see what the area’s like" in a nine-tweet thread.

“As soon as we walked in it was pretty obvious I didn’t fit in for a variety of reasons,” Xu said. “I’m in a suit, I’m Asian, I’m the only one even pretending to wear a mask.”

Xu said before he was even seated, another man at the bar began yelling obscenities in his direction.

“I’m pretty non-confrontational, and am just like ‘hey man just a mask, just grabbing some dinner’ and walk by him and find a booth in the back,” Xu said in another tweet.

The man, who Xu described as “pretty drunk,” continued yelling and threatened to assault Xu, even remarking that “he’s probably carrying the virus,” the legislator said.

Eventually, the man left without further incident and the bar’s waitresses apologized “profusely.” Other patrons also apologized and bought Xu a round of drinks.

“He loses interest and leaves the bar I guess, but for a few minutes there I was really getting ready to fight or flight outta there,” Xu said. “Especially with the Georgia story in the news, I didn’t know how this was going to go down.”

Eight people were killed Tuesday in three shootings across the Atlanta area at massage businesses. Six of the people 21-year-old Robert A. Long alleged killed were Asian American women.

It’s the latest and most deadly episode of violence directed at Asian Americans, which has escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic and has left many Asian Americans fearful.

That includes some groups in the Kansas City area.

Xu, who posted to social media about two hours after the incident, said he was back in his room and grateful for the other patrons’ kindness.

“Good people win out in the end,” Xu said.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a Democrat from Missouri, met with community leaders Friday at the Gem Theater in the 18th & Vine Jazz District for a conversation about the escalating violence directed at the Asian-American community.

Critics often cite former President Trump's language in public speeches to describe the coronavirus, which emerged as a pandemic after originating in Wuhan, China.

“Thanks to President Trump for all the China Virus discourse over the last year,” Xu wrote in his final tweet of the thread.

He also urged people “to check in on your Asian-American friends right now and see how they’re doing. I didn’t think I had internalized the Georgia murders, but this incident tonight made it clear that I had.”

“Maybe I should’ve known better, but I was not expecting to have to deal with this personally on the trip,” Xu said. “It’s a scary time out there for Asian-Americans right now; it’s not just an imagined slight. Be safe y’all.”