Sajid Javid has revealed that he was a victim of racist bullying at school.
The home secretary said he had been targeted and “punched to the ground” at the age of 11 because he was Asian.
He said he had been “reminded” of his ordeal by an attack on a 15-year old Syrian boy in West Yorkshire, footage of which emerged last week.
“Obviously I hated it and I thought how that young boy must feel,” Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Those memories flooded back for me.”
Video images of the Syrian refugee, identified in newspaper reports as Jamal, being pushed to the ground and having water poured in his face in a school playground were widely shared on social media.
The video, filmed in a lunch break at Almondbury Community School, in Huddersfield, on 25 October, has been condemned by leading politicians, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Javid said he had been upset by the footage and dismayed that racist bullying of the kind he had experienced nearly 40 years ago was still going on in British society.
“I saw the video like anyone else and part of me I was clearly absolutely outraged and, to be frank, it reminded of an incident I had myself when I was 11 at school.”
“That’s the immediate memories that came back to me. And obviously I hated it and I thought how that young boy must feel.”
He said his first reaction to the attack had been “How can this kind of thing still be going on in our country?” he said.
Mr Javid, whose parents emigrated to the UK from Pakistan in the early 1960s, said he had been involved in a “very similar” incident shortly after he had started at a comprehensive school in Bristol, where he grew up.
“Those memories flooded back for me,” he said. “Because I was Asian, I was punched to the ground.”
An online fundraising page set up to help the 15-year-old boy and his family has so far raised more than £50,000.
Mr Javid said the public’s response to the attack had been “heart-warming”. He said he had written to the boy’s family to express his sympathy and hoped to arrange a meeting in future.
A 16-year-old older boy is to be charged with assault in connection with the incident. The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will appear at youth court “in due course”.