Keith Ellison

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison

More transparent, more inclusive and more fair

Keith Ellison: I ran because I want to be part of making real progress, meaningful progress in the lives of people. That's why I'm jumping into this. I will be the attorney for everybody, for every single state agency including Department of Transportation (MNDOT), including the Department of Human Services (DHS), which is the biggest agency. I'll be the lawyer for the POST Board, (Police Officers Standards and Training board), the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). All these institutions, it's my job to represent them.

I've been a lawyer now for 26 years. In the course of my legal work, clients often don't just ask me what's the law say, they ask me, "What should I do?" I ran very transparently. I'm going to be saying be more transparent, be more inclusive, be more fair, understand that you can be right and still be wrong, understand that the law is sometimes lawful, but awful. The law says you can do what you're doing, but should you do it.

As your attorney, I'm saying you shouldn't. You need to be more equitable, more fair, and take the long game approach understanding that even if you win this battle, you would've lost a war.

There's so much of discrimination and unfairness in our society that is legal to do. As a matter of fact, in terms of our school desegregation law, some people would argue, I don't think I'd agree, that you have to prove intentional discrimination before you can bring about a remedy that can meaningfully make sure every kid has an education. Nowadays, nobody's wearing a white hood, and nobody's burning crosses ... well, they are, but most of the reasons people's life chances are cut isn't because of some jerk burning a cross.

Most of it is nice people with good intentions who say things like, "You know, it's really a shame, but we just can't do anything about it."

Al McFarlane: "And it's not my fault."

Keith Ellison: "And it's not my fault."

Al McFarlane: "I didn't create the system." "And you can't hold me accountable for what my dad did or my granddad…

Keith Ellison: Any of that.

Al McFarlane: ... or for all the profits from cotton or from slavery."

Keith Ellison: You can't just-

Al McFarlane: "I didn't like any of that, don't like it now, but you can't make me pay for it."

Al McFarlane: And that's a problem. It's a big problem.

Keith Ellison: It's a huge problem. We also say we know there's a big old tent city in this rich community. We could afford to make sure that everyone has housing, but you know what, we just can't do anything about it. The law's not there. It's just a sad situation. That is too prevalent of an attitude. As Attorney General, I don't see myself as a person who fights lawsuits or files lawsuit. Those are just tools. We help solve problems.

That's what we do. We solve problems. You don't always need a lawsuit to solve a problem. Sometimes putting some sunlight on a problem can help solve that problem, but my approach will not be legalistic. My approach will be justice-istic.

Keith Ellison: I just want to tell everybody on January 8th, if there's injustice in Minnesota, there still just might be some. So, we need you to be patient and to work with us. The other thing I learned in my 12 years in Congress, and my four years in legislature, is that we do need to talk about the proper relationship between constituents and elected officials. I have sensed that not everybody, but some people have the mindset that, "Well, we put you in office, so go solve the problem. If there is a problem and you're in office, it's somehow your fault."

Keith Ellison: My thought is in a democracy where you have active citizens, there's a responsibility upon everyone to bring forth problems and solutions, and we work on them together. So, I'm trying to encourage active citizenship. I'm no Messiah. I'm not trying to be one, never claimed to be one. I'm a convenor. I'm going to be a law enforcer, but I'm going to need people's participation to help me do that. So, I'm asking for people's assistance on that.

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