Jap Lane's residents offer up new names and resistance
By JAMIE REID
ORANGE COUNTY -- Jap Lane residents don't want their street name to change, but Tuesday night they offered up alternatives to avoid scandal and possible lawsuits.
More than two dozen Jap Lane residents gathered at Pecan Acres Baptist Church, south of Vidor, where they threw out names such as Mary Lane, Country Lane and Shane Goldman Lane, which would pay homage to the 19-year-old Orange County Marine lance corporal who was the first Southeast Texan to die in Iraq.
Still, most people wanted to keep the name Jap Lane.
"We are not slurring Japanese-Americans or the Kishi family," said Keith Worthy, a 42-year-old bricklayer. "I don't associate it with anybody. Once you live there, it becomes you. That's why we feel so strong."
The road was named for Kichimatsu Kishi, a Japanese immigrant who founded the Kishi Colony on nearby FM 1135 in 1908.
A similarly named roadway in Jefferson County, Jap Road, was renamed after a long battle last year between activist groups and Jap Road residents. After news media across the country and the world spread the news of the fight over Jap Road, residents in August grudgingly renamed their street Boondocks Road, referencing a popular catfish restaurant that once operated there.
Orange County Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose, hoping to avoid a similar tempest, told the residents they needed to choose another name. Whatever they want, they could have, he said -- as long as it wasn't offensive.
Dubose came to the meeting with ballots in hand listing American Lane, Japanese Lane and a write-in spot. Within minutes, residents quickly vetoed both choices and offered up others.
They suggested that the road could have three names -- one for a half-mile section from Oilla to FM 1442, another for a section about 3 miles long from FM 1442 to FM 1135 and a third for the longest section from FM 1135 to FM 105.
Dubose said he would make out new ballots, minus his previous suggestions, and mail them to all Jap Lane residents. He expected to have another meeting in about a month where residents could get the results of voting.
Before talk strayed into other topics -- flooding problems, dumping of trash and stray animals along Jap Lane -- Dubose handed out green plastic street signs that read "Jap Ln."
The signs were gobbled up and residents asked for more.
"I'm going to stick it on my gate," said Ed Worthy, a strong proponent of keeping the name. "I dare someone to steal it."
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Lane change talk signals an advance
Orange County commissioners and residents seem to have turned an important corner regarding Jap Lane. They apparently realize -- with some distressing exceptions -- that the road's offensive name must be changed.
At a meeting Tuesday, they discussed alternatives such as Mary Lane, Country Lane and Shane Goldman Lane. Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose proposed American Lane or Japanese Lane. Some suggested three new names for the road for its three major sections.
Any of those choices, or any other reasonable option, would be a change for the better. Whether some residents understand it or not, and regardless of the lane name's history, the term is a racial slur. As such it is unacceptable in Orange County or anywhere in the country.
Commissioners and residents have other important issues they should be focusing on. They should resolve this question soon and move on to them.