Hundreds of vehicles recalled in Kansas after number plates spell out racial slur

Total of 731 active registrations found to contain offensive phrases 

Wednesday 28 November 2018 17:04
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Hundreds of vehicles recalled in Kansas after number plates spell out racial slur

Hundreds of vehicles have been recalled in the US state of Kansas after new car number plates were found to contain a racial slur.

A total of 731 active registrations had the letters containing “JAP”, an ethnic slur that is offensive to Japanese Americans.

Vehicle owners were sent a letter asking them to return the plate to their local vehicle office within 30 days for a replacement at no cost.

Plates not replaced within that period will be identified in the state’s system and will be replaced at their annual renewal.

The issue arose last year when 70-year-old Keith Kawamoto spotted a car with the Kansas plate in traffic near his home and took a photo of it. He then wrote several letters to Kansas officials to highlight his concerns.

“I let them know it is considered a very derogatory racial slur and I don’t think it should be allowed anywhere,” Mr Kawamoto said.

He got an apology back from the state’s motor vehicles division, but Mr Kawamoto wanted Kansas to get the plates recalled.

Mr Kawamoto’s photo of the Kansas plate was first published by the Pacific Citizen, the newspaper of the Japanese American Citizens League.

Barbara Johnson, a 67-year-old Japanese American living in Kansas spotted the story and it brought back memories of her childhood.

“It was not a good time to be Japanese because of Pearl Harbour and World War II.

“I recall vividly as a child being called ‘Jap’ – and how it made me feel so small and hurt by being called that,” Ms Johnson said.

Along with her husband Rick they began working to get the plates pulled.

“It was very gratifying to know there is someone in government that was willing to hear our side of the story and to recognise it and to proactively act on it as quickly as it did,” Rick Johnson said.

Rachel Whitten, spokesperson for the Kansas department of revenue said: “We do take these types of complaints very seriously and appreciate that it was brought to our attention.”

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