Densho Digital Archive
Japanese American National Museum Collection
Title: Norman Mineta Interview
Narrator: Norman Mineta
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Denver, Colorado
Date: July 4, 2008
Densho ID: denshovh-mnorman-01-0010

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TI: I'm going to jump ahead now because we're almost out of time. I'm thinking, later on in your career, you served on President Bush's cabinet, and you were Secretary of Defense -- I mean, Secretary of Transportation during the terrorist attack on 9/11. And I'm curious to know, because you were in a critical role at that time, if, if your work during redress ever played a role in how you thought about how to protect our country after 9/11.

NM: Well, there's no question that right after September 11th they were saying, "Take all these Arab Americans and Muslims and put them in camp." And I'm going, "I don't believe this. What am I hearing?" And so as we were putting together the security measures right after, on September 11th, and aviation security was in the Department of Transportation. And so on September 12th there was a cabinet meeting, and it was with the, the members of the Democratic/Republican leadership from the Congress. And towards the end of the meeting, Congressman David Bonior from Michigan who was the Democratic Whip, said, "Mr. President, we have a very large population of Arab Americans in Michigan, and they're very concerned about what's happening, and they're very concerned about what they're hearing on radio, television, reading in the paper about some of the security measures that might be taken relating to transportation." And the President said, "David, you're absolutely correct. We are also concerned about this, and we want to make sure that what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn't happen today."

And so that was on Wednesday, the next day, September 12th, and so I got back to the DOT and I told my staff about it. So I said, "One of the things we're gonna have to make sure we do is no racial profiling." And so I, by Monday I came out with our "no racial profiling." I never went back to the White House to clear it before issuing the "no racial profiling." But the chief of staff, Andy Card, called and said, "That was a good statement," and said, "You'll have the President's backing on this." Well, that Monday was also the day that the President met with Arab Americans and Muslims at the Muslim, Islamic Studies Center in D.C., and the President asked me to go with him to that. And he told him, he said, "We know who the terrorists are. They're not loyal Arab Americans, they're not faithful followers of the Islamic religion," and so anyway, we proceeded along this line. And in the meantime, Ann Coulter and what's that Malkin... Malkin kind of diatribe coming out of them. So, and then towards the end of September, there was that killing in Phoenix or Tucson, and the, when they apprehended the guy who killed the owner of that gas station mini mart, they said, "Why did you shoot and kill this guy?" He said, "Because he looked like the enemy." Well, he was a Sikh who owned that gasoline station, had a turban and beard. So right after that, the President called the Arab, I mean, the South Asian Indian and Sikh people to the White House and said, "We are going to pursue anybody who commits..." what do you call it?

TI: A hate crime?

NM: Hate crimes, hate crimes. And so then in... I've forgotten when it was, January or February of 2002, I spoke to the largest dinner I've ever spoken to. There's a group in Detroit called ACCESS, (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services). I think that works out to ACCESS. And I spoke to about four thousand people at a dinner at Cobo Hall, convention center in Detroit, on this whole issue of what happens in the post-9/11, and the development of the security measures, and the "no racial profiling" rule. But it was just a stunning audience, great group. And as I said, it's the largest group I've ever spoken to at a dinner, four thousand people there.

TI: And I'm guessing, I have to imagine that they were so appreciative that you were in the position you were making those decisions.

NM: There's the Anti-Defamation League, Arab American Anti-Defamation League, and that night at that ACCESS dinner I got an award from them for the stand that I took from September 11th.

TI: Well, we're out of time. I actually took more than I said I would. This has been an incredible interview. Thank you so much for your time, and I appreciate it.

NM: Thanks, Tom.

<End Segment 10> - Copyright ©2008 Densho and the Japanese American National Museum. All Rights Reserved.