Kansas license plate recall

In the wake of complaints concerning racial slurs on license plates, the Kansas Department of Revenue is recalling hundreds of active registrations.

 The Kansas Department of Revenue has announced that there are 731 plates that contain the random letter combination “JAP”. Concerns have been raised regarding the fact that the combination spells out what is often used as a racial slur towards Japanese Americans.

 All vehicle owners with said plate letter combination have been mailed letters encouraging them to return their plates to their county vehicle office within the next 30 days for a cost-free replacement.

 The issue originally arose last year in California when a Californian, Keith Kawamoto, saw a vehicle with Kansas plates in traffic that obtained the lettering. He proceeded to write several letters to Kansas officials – former Governor Jeff Colyer included.

 Kawamoto is a member of the Japanese American Citizens League. According the the league’s website, it was established in 1929. The league’s mission is to “secure and safeguard the civil and human rights of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and all communities who are affected by injustice and bigotry.” Also amongst their efforts is, “work to promote and preserve the heritage and legacy of the Japanese American Community.”


It didn’t stop there. Kawamoto failed in his efforts to get the license plates recalled and merely received an apologetic letter in return. It took a Japanese American woman, Barbara Johnson, living in Abilene, Kansas to get the job done.

 Johnson caught wind of Kawamoto’s efforts when she saw a picture he had taken that was published in the Pacific American. She has said that the issue really hit home considering her youth was at the time of Pearl Harbor. “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 by being called that.”

 It was after the efforts of Johnson and her husband, Rick, that the Kansas Department of Revenue finally let the issue be seen before the the department’s review board. The department ultimately made the decision in October to pull any license plates with the lettering.

 Varying responses to this effort are had across the state. One interpretation that has presented itself on campus is Katelynn Spencer, a senior on campus, who says “I didn’t hear about it until recently, so I don’t believe it was very high on our [government’s] priority list. Many complaints are made and I feel like this one was put on the backburner.”

A slightly different approach was taken by Amber Couch, sophomore on campus, who disagrees with the immense amount of attention that this has gained, “I think there are much bigger issues happening in Kansas than a computer generated license plate. It wasn’t intended to be hurtful.”

 The department’s spokeswoman, Rachel Whitten, has extended her apologies for the computer generated plates. “We do take these types of complaints very seriously and appreciate that it was brought to our attention,” Whitten said.

 Beyond that, many are grateful that the concerns were taken seriously and efforts have been made to correct it. Many have reported being proud that Kansas didn’t let this incident slip between it’s fingers.