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License plates containing ethnic slurry are revoked after complaint

Kansas retrieves more than 700 signs on the streets that contain the letter combination "JAP" after complaining that they are…

A complaint about ethnic oppression against Japanese Americans has led Kansas to retrieve hundreds of license plates containing the random letter combination “JAP”.

The issue arose in October 201

7 when Keith Kawamoto, 70, saw a Kansas plate near his home in Los Angeles and took a photo of it. Kawamoto then wrote several letters to Kansas officials including Gov. Jeff Colyer.

“I let them know that it is considered a very depressing race and I do not think it should be allowed anywhere,” said Kawamoto.

Kansas motor vehicles divorced, but Kawamoto wanted Kansas to get all plates

Still the citizen, the newspaper of the Japanese American National Union, published Kawamoto’s photo of the Kansas sign.

When Barbara Johnson, a 67-year-old Japanese-American woman living in Abilene, Kansas, saw the story of the Pacific Ocean citizen, she said it retrieved memories from her childhood.

“It was not a good time to be Japanese because of Pearl Harbor and World War II,” Johnson said. “I remember living like a child called Jap, and how it made me feel so little and hurt by being called it.”

Johnson admitted that Kansas officials probably did not know “what it means anymore since it was World War II a couple of generations ago.”

With his husband Rick, the Kansas couple set out to do what Kawamoto did not have: few the discs recalled and away from the road.

Rachel Whitten, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Revenue, said the question arose before the department’s scrutiny committee, which took the decision last month to draw some current license plates with the letters and prevent use in future plates.

“It was very pleasing to know that there is someone in the government who was willing to hear our side of history and to recognize it and to act proactively as quickly as it did,” says Rick Johnson.

The Kansas Department of Revenue said that there are 731 active registrations containing random letter combinations on standard type plates. Vehicle owners were sent a letter dated Tuesday and asked them to return the sign to their county office within 30 days for compensation at no charge.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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