By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In these tumultuous times, one issue continues to be the source of division for many Americans: race.

But Attorney General Keith Ellison has decided to do something about that. Ellison is holding discussions on race one Minnesota town at a time.

For more than a decade, Keith Ellison has been at the front and center of many Minnesota discussions on race. As a state representative, he was elected to the U.S. House in 2006, becoming the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.

In 2018 he gave up a safe Congressional seat representing Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs to run for attorney general.

Now as attorney general, he has started something new. Ellison is traveling around the state to different communities to talk about a subject that a lot of Minnesotans would rather put on the back burner.

“As attorney general, I do have a law enforcement role. I am a prosecutor; I do care a lot about public safety; I do know and I hear the statistics. According to the FBI, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, bias-motivated crime is spiking,” Ellison said.

Attorney General Ellison’s statewide discussions on race are taking place in the aftermath of a surge of hate crimes in Minnesota.

The latest FBI statistics show an increase of 22% in hate crimes from 119 incidents in 2016, to 146 in 2017. Local advocacy groups point out that those figures are almost certainly underreported. Each local community has a different way of reporting and categorizing what represents a hate crime.

Esme Murphy