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Kansas recalls license plates after complaints of ethnic ties



(WICHITA, Kan.) – Kansas recalls hundreds of vehicle registration plates on the streets containing the "JAP" inscription following complaints of an ethnic insult to the Americans of Japanese origin.

The Kansas Department of Revenue said that there were 731 active registrations containing this combination of random letters on standard registration plates. Vehicle owners received a letter dated Tuesday asking them to return the plaque to their county's vehicle office within 30 days for a free replacement. Plaques not replaced during this period will be identified in the Crown system and will be replaced at their annual renewal.

The question surfaced last year when Keith Kawamoto spotted a car carrying Kansas' plate in traffic near his home in Culver City, California, and took a picture of it. The 70-year-old California man has written several letters to Kansas officials, including Governor Jeff Colyer.

"I let them know that it was considered a very pejorative racial insult and I did not think it should be allowed anywhere," Kawamoto said.

He received an apology from the state's motor vehicle division, but Kawamoto wanted Kansas to get the recalled plates.

Kawamoto's photo of the Kansas plaque was first published by the Pacific Citizen, newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League.

When Barbara Johnson, a 67-year-old American-American living in Abilene, Kansas, noticed the photo of the license plate taken by Kawamoto and that she had read the story of this American from the Pacific, it reminded him of his own childhood.

"It was not the right time to be Japanese because of Pearl Harbor and the Second World War," she said. "I remember very well a child called" Jap ", and the way I felt so small and hurt by calling him so."

Johnson knew that the license plate was not a vanity plaque with offensive liaison, and she said that she thought Kansas officials "did not know what that meant anymore because that it was the Second World War, two or three generations ago. "

With her husband, Rick, the Kansas couple said they might be able to do what Kawamoto had not been able to do since last year in California: get the recalled plates and leave the road.

"It was very gratifying to know that someone in the government was willing to hear our version of history, to recognize it and to act proactively as quickly as it did." did, "said Rick Johnson.

Kansas spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said the issue had been reviewed by the department's review panel, which decided in late October to remove the current license plates with the inscription "JAP" and to limit their use. use in future plates.

"We take this type of complaint very seriously and recognize that it has been brought to our attention," said Whitten.

Contact us at editors@time.com.


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