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License Plate Spotted in Calif. Gets Hundreds Recalled in Kansas

Complaints came in about lettering offensive to Japanese-Americans
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 28, 2018 12:21 PM CST
Hundreds of plates are affected.   (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

(Newser) – Kansas is recalling hundreds of vehicle license plates on the streets containing "JAP" lettering in the wake of complaints that it's an ethnic slur offensive to Japanese-Americans. The Kansas Department of Revenue said there are 731 active registrations containing that random letter combination on standard license plates, per the AP. Vehicle owners were sent a letter dated Tuesday asking them to return the plate to their county vehicle office within 30 days for replacement at no cost. Plates not replaced within that period will be IDed in the state's system and replaced at their annual renewal. The issue arose in 2017 when Keith Kawamoto spotted a car with the Kansas plate near his Culver City, Calif., home and took a pic. The 70-year-old wrote several letters to Kansas officials, including Gov. Jeff Colyer, on the "very derogatory racial slur." "I don't think it should be allowed anywhere," Kawamoto said.

He got an apology from the state's motor vehicles division, but he wanted the plates recalled. Kawamoto's photo was first published by the Pacific Citizen, the newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League, and when Barbara Johnson, a 67-year-old Japanese-American from Abilene spotted his picture, it brought back childhood memories. "It was not a good time to be Japanese because of Pearl Harbor and World War II," she said. "I recall vividly as a child being called 'Jap'—and how it made me feel so small and hurt." She and her husband figured maybe they could do what Kawamoto hadn't been able to do from California: get the plates recalled and off the road. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue said the issue came before the department's review board, which made the decision in late October to pull any current license plates with that particular lettering and restrict its use in future plates. "We ... appreciate that it was brought to our attention," she said. (This guy's surname was deemed too offensive for a license plate.)

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