Why are the Sakanes being threatened in Journey to Topaz?Who is threatening the Sakanes and why are they being threatened?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The Sakanes are being threatened because of the atmosphere of fear and anger in the aftermath of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The author of the book, Yoshiko Uchida, sums up the causes of the mass relocation of 120,000 West Coast Japanese Americans by pointing to "race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of leadership." Although the government claimed that the removal of all Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast area was necessary to ensure the security of the nation, history proved that the move was completely unfounded. The Japanese Americans were victims of racial profiling taken to its extreme; in essence, they were

"imprisoned by (their) own country during World War II, not because of anything (they) had done, but simply because (they) looked like the enemy."

Interestingly, in the narrative, the people who enforce the mass evacuations and relocation do not, for the most part, appear to harbor hostility towards the Japanese Americans. The FBI agents who come to arrest Yuki's father as an "enemy alien" are polite, if not almost apologetic in carrying out the job they have been assigned to do, and Yuki's teacher at school stresses to the children that "the Japanese born in America...must never be confused with the Japanese militarists who attacked Pearl Harbor." The many Caucasian friends and acquaintances the Sakanes have made in Berkeley are sympathetic to the family's plight, but are powerless to do anything about it. Mrs. Jamieson in particular is appalled at what is happening, and has written letters directly to President Roosevelt to protest the injustice of the evacuations, but to no avail.

The support offered by so many of the Caucasians with whom the Sakanes deal raises the disturbing question of whether the evacuation had more to do with racism than with fear. Yuki's classmate Garvis Dickerson, expresses racial hatred, calling Yuki "a dirty Jap," and Ken points out that

"there are a lot of people in California who'd be very happy to be rid of the Japanese competition in business and on the farms. They'd be glad to see us leave. It's people like that who spread those false rumors about sabotage in Hawaii when there wasn't any at all."

Mrs. Sakane, however, is less condemning of the motives of society. She says,

"People can get hysterical when they are afraid...fear sometimes makes people do terrible things."

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