Thursday, September 9, 2021
Changing the Course of History: How the Japanese Internment shaped the US response to Muslim Americans after 9/11
Historian Susan Kamei of USC links the personal history of Norm Mineta, who was kept in a Japanese internment camp as a child before spending a lifetime in public service, with a remembrance of President George W Bush's response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
She recounts that in the spring of 2001, President Bush had invited his Secretary of Transportation Mineta (who previously served in Bill Clinton's administration and 11-terms as a Congressman from San Jose) to dinner at Camp David. During their visit, the president asked Mineta about his family's experience being held in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. For the next three hours, Mineta shared his experience of wartime detention and its effects on him and his family.
The day after the 9/11 attacks, Secretary Mineta was at the White House in a meeting with the president, Cabinet members and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. The discussion turned to the concerns of Arab Americans, Muslims and those from Middle Eastern countries over the growing demands reported in the media that they be placed in detention facilities. Mineta later recalled the president saying, “We want to make sure that what happened to Norm in 1942 doesn’t happen today.”