The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits just fell to the lowest level since 1969 dropping to 199,000. President Biden said those numbers reinforce, quote, "the historic economic progress we are making and the importance of building on that progress." The three men who chased and gunned down 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in February of last year have all been found guilty of murder. Interview with Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali.
And what a beautiful sentiment to transfer from you to me as a newspaper man. Yes, good journalism --
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: I know.
CAPEHART: -- is important.
VELSHI: A local newspaper man originally.
VELSHI: You were a local guy originally.
CAPEHART: Yes. "New York Daily News."
Ali, thank you very much.
VELSHI: Happy Thanksgiving.
CAPEHART: Happy Thanksgiving.
What happened in Georgia today was not justice. Justice would be if Ahmaud Arbery were still alive tonight, getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. What happened in Georgia today was accountability. The three men who chased and gunned down 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in February of last year have all been found guilty of murder. Celebrations erupted outside the courthouse after the nearly all-white jury delivered a guilty verdict after 11 hours of deliberation.
Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery, was found guilty on all nine counts including malice murder and felony murder. His father, Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan were also found guilty of felony murder. They each face a sentence of life in prison.
It will be up to the judge to decide if they will ever be eligible for parole. They all still face federal hate crime charges as well. Ahmaud Arbery`s parents thanked those who`ve marched, prayed, and supported their family since their son`s murder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCUS ARBERY, FATHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: We talked about (INAUDIBLE). We got that (INAUDIBLE) --
WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I never thought this day would come. But god is good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he is.
COOPER-JONES: I just want to tell everybody thank you. Thank you. Now, Quez (ph), which you know him as Ahmaud, I know him as Quez (ph), he will now rest in peace.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: In a statement, Vice President Kamala Harris praised the verdict. Adding, quote, we feel the weight of grief. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive. Ahmaud Arbery was a son. He was a brother. He was a friend. His life had meaning. We will not forget him. We honor him best by continuing the fight for justice.
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke about the historic nature of this verdict that many felt was far from certain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK PRESIDENT: And let the word go forth all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one black in the Deep South stood up in the courtroom and said that black lives do matter. You came in the state of Georgia, a state known for segregation, a state known for Jim Crow, and you turned it around. You took a young unarmed boy that they thought was worthless and you put his name in history today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: Leading off our discussion tonight, Kirk Burkhalter, criminal law professor at New York law school where he is the director of the 21st Century Policing Project, Marq Claxton, director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance. Both are former NYPD detectives. And Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University, a former federal prosecutor and an MSNBC legal analyst.
Gentlemen, welcome all. Kirk, I`ll start with you. What was your reaction to the verdict today? Did you expect it based on what you saw during the trial?
KIRK BURKHALTER, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL CRIMINAL LAW PROFESSOR: Well, I would have to say that I didn`t necessarily expect the verdict. If this case had been brought to trial, if an arrest was made initially, if the police and the prosecutors initially had done their job, then yes, I would have expected a verdict. But we`ve seen time and time again things don`t necessarily go the way that one would expect. So I thought the prosecutor put on an excellent case. However, the defense consistently tried to muddy the waters with a lot of racial overtones and so forth that`s been well- documented.
So I kind of watched the verdict being announced while holding my breath. And certainly, the facts seemed rather obvious to me with regards to the charges, the intentional -- the malice murder charges, the felony murder charges and so forth. But one never knows.
CAPEHART: Right. An, Marq, you know, one never knows but also, there may never have even been an arrest without the video that surfaced.
Take a listen to Attorney Ben Crump this morning before the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY, FAMILY OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I don`t want us to have this precedent where if minorities are killed by white people that we have this high standard where we have to have a video to get justice. I`m thinking about Breonna Taylor. I`m thinking about so many others where there was no video. We can`t create this precedent where if you don`t have video and an unarmed black person is killed, Reverend Baker, that we say they don`t get due process, they don`t get their day in court. I know video`s important, but it cannot be the only thing that gives black people access to the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: That is an excellent point by Attorney Crump. But we`ve seen here and in the Derek Chauvin case video serves as an unimpeachable witness. But is video in some cases helping juries adjust their imaginations in all cases so that they question racist tropes about black victims?
MARQ CLAXTON, BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: Perhaps. I think what oftentimes happens when you have these cases that involve some video, it kind of -- and I really mean kind of, boxes some jurors in, to face some harsh realities, some unavoidable facts. Some things may not be in debate or discussion.
I think it`s somewhat cold comfort that in 2021 if you engage in an old- fashioned Georgia lynching that there may be some level of accountability. It`s debatable, as you indicated, whether or not this is any level of justice. But at the very least, the families can have some kind of discernible fact pattern that could perhaps assist them in that long journey toward a closure, if that`s even possible.
And even with the video, the verdict demonstrates I think that when you deputize yourself as these defendants did to operate under the color of law, you`re not guaranteed to be afforded the same kind of reverence and grace that law enforcement is afforded, even if you use law enforcement tools and terminology. And then I think ultimately people have to resist the urge to constantly police black people for nothing more than proximity discomfort or appearing to be suspicious.
CAPEHART: Amen to that.
And on the question of accountability, Paul, accountability almost didn`t happen. This case went through two prosecutors who weren`t even going to indict these men. One is now facing charges of misconduct.
I want to have you listen to what David Henderson said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HENDERSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE AND CIVIL RIGHITS ATTORNEY: This verdict doesn`t simply convict the men that were on trial. It also convicts the analysis that went into dismissing this case previously. If you look at the letter that you`re holding, the legal analysis in that letter is deeply flawed. And so you`re forced to pick between one of two choices, either the lawyers are that bad at analyzing Georgia law and applying it to a set of facts or they are deeply biased in favor of the McMichaels and Bryan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: And Paul, Georgia Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff said there was nearly impunity for this murder and further investigation is necessary to determine how and why officials initially refused to pursue the case.
Paul, your reaction.
PAUL BUTLER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Now that the white supremacist killers have been brought to justice, it`s time to bring to justice the white supremacist prosecutor who refused to take this case, who had familiarity based on employing one of the defendants. But thank God there was another prosecutor who put on an unimpeachable case. They proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Arbery was hunted down and killed by three men who never even told him why they were trying to stop him.
Jonathan, the defense was based on an old Georgia citizen`s arrest law that dates back to slavery when the law was first passed. It authorized white citizens to capture enslaved people. But in the end, this was a straightforward murder prosecution. I had concerns about the lack of diversity of the jury. 11 out of 12 white in a county where 1 out of 4 people are black.
But in her closing statement, the prosecutor told the jurors, you are Glynn County. I`ve heard that as telling the jurors follow the evidence and show the world that it`s 2021 and in Glynn County, a black man can finally get equal justice under the law.
CAPEHART: Well, Kirk, let`s talk more about race. The judge pointed out racial bias in jury selection and Vice President Kamala Harris noted the racist tropes used by the defense saying, the defense counsel chose to set a tone that cast the attendance of ministers at the trial as intimidation and dehumanized a young black man with racist tropes. The jury arrived at its verdict despite these tactics.
What does it say that the jury was able to see past all the racist tropes and dirty tricks, one? And two, do you think it was important that race wasn`t really argued before the jury?
BURKHALTER: Well, starting with the latter, the race almost did not need to be argued with the jury. Now, that sounds a little ridiculous because jurors can only consider evidence that is presented before them. However, they had video evidence of these white men in a pickup truck chasing down this black man and shooting him to death with a shotgun. Race is all over that.
Unfortunately, this goes back to the video evidence that you mentioned previously. It`s unfortunate that when a case involves the murder of a black man that there must be this video evidence. Imagine needing video evidence to convict three black men who chased down a white man.
So with regards to the racist tropes that were used at the trial, I honestly believe the defense overplayed their hand. For whatever reason, because any attorney is not going to just do something out of happenstance, make statements off the cuff, this was a concerted theory of their case. And they believed that if they somehow inspired the jury to dehumanize Ahmaud Arbery, talking about his hygiene and that he was not a victim, that this would somehow resonate with the jurors.
I would have to believe given the verdicts that the result was just the opposite, that these jurors took their duty seriously and I think that the defense overplayed that hand, including all the shenanigans over the black -- so-called black clergy members. It hurt them at the end. I think one day we`ll find out certainly whenever the jurors are interviewed that it did hurt them.
CAPEHART: Marq, I want to take you back to something Paul mentioned earlier and that was the citizen`s arrest law which Georgia repealed, which was used by -- used to defend those who killed Arbery. How do you feel -- how do police feel about these vigilantes, do you think?
CLAXTON: Well, first off, I think there`s a certain discomfort with referring to these individuals as vigilantes. I think when you think about vigilantes, you think about someone who basically uses the excuse that the ends justifies the means. But the end has in theory some kind of justice attached to it. When you`re talking about domestic terrorists, when you`re talking about this level of violence, a person, they aren`t even a vigilante. And what I think the defense used in this particular case was the police defense.
You know, first off, as was indicated, they dehumanized or attempted to dehumanize the victim of this particular case and use more or less what we`ve seen time and time again in police cases, police defending cases. And as I indicated previously, that failed miserably because they were not vigilantes, if you will, they were not do-gooders, they were not performing under the operation of law, they were performing under the color of law and they violated the rights and committed these criminal acts and were judged accordingly by a jury who paid attention to the facts.
CAPEHART: And Paul, last question to you. The defendants are planning to appeal the verdict. But they`re all facing hate crime charges. How do you see this all playing out?
BUTLER: So, you know, often people will appeal. I think that the main issue on this appeal will be the Georgia citizen arrest law. But especially in a high-profile case like this both the judge and the prosecutors conduct the trial with an eye towards the appeal. Prosecutors call that protecting their verdict. And the reality is that guilty verdicts are rarely overturned.
CAPEHART: That is a good thing to know. Paul butler, Kirk Burkhalter, and Marq Claxton, thanks to all of you for starting off our discussion tonight.
We have much more ahead on today`s verdict. Congresswoman Karen bass of California will join us next.
(BEGIIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY, FAMILY OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Even though this is not a celebration it is a reflection to acknowledge that the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob. The spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob. The spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.
SHARPTON: Tomorrow, there will be an empty chair at Wanda`s table. Ahmaud will not be at Thanksgiving tomorrow. But she can look at that chair and say to Ahmaud, I fought a good fight and I got you some justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: Joining me now, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman Bass, great to see you again.
CAPEHART: We just heard Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, saying that, quote, the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob. You said in your statement today, quote, what happened to Ahmaud was a modern-day lynching.
You also noted that legislation to make lynching a federal crime still hasn`t passed in the Senate.
How do you square today`s verdict with that?
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, exactly right. It just goes to show that the Senate is out of touch. The Senate needs to pass federal legislation outlawing lynching. And just think of the campaigns that people fought, the NAACP fought, the black community fought in the beginning of the last century, how many years we have fought to have laws to made it a federal crime to lynch an individual just like the George Floyd justice in policing act has stalled in the senate, so has legislation to make lynching a federal crime.
CAPEHART: And if memory serves, the last time the Senate made a go of it to try to overturn the lynching law, it was then-Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker who pushed it. And it was Senator Rand Paul who blocked it.
BASS: Exactly right.
CAPEHART: For some reason.
BASS: Well, he was -- he was debating over, you know, what actually constituted a lynching. And I think historically people have looked at lynchings as hangings. But lynchings were not always hangings. Emmett Till was beat to death.
People were shot. There was often-times a law enforcement connection. So right, Rand Paul held it up, so it didn`t pass. But maybe with the verdict today, maybe that will put some energy behind the Senate to get in step with the rest of the country.
CAPEHART: You know, Congresswoman Bass, I want to play a piece of sound that is difficult to hear but really shows how the defense seriously tried to dehumanize Ahmaud Arbery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA HOGUE, GREGORY MCMICHAEL`S ATTORNEY: Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long dirty toenails.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: I mean -- go ahead. Go ahead, Congresswoman.
BASS: I mean, I think that it is just absolutely despicable. Just like the defense lawyer who said that there were scary black people in the courtroom and scary black ministers that needed to be removed. So I think that they were trying to use every dog whistle. They were trying to communicate to the jury. And I`m just so thankful that they failed.
But to resort to such a low standard, to try to win favor with the jury, I just think that was terrible.
CAPEHART: Let me play you another thing that was played in the courtroom, a crucial 911 call by Greg McMichael. And the jury heard this call played out in court. Listen to how he refers to Ahmaud Arbery.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DISPATCHER: 911, what is the address of your emergency?
GREG MCMICHAEL, DEFENDANT: I`m out here at Satilla Shores. There`s a Black male running down the street.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
CAPEHART: There`s a Black male running down the street. We can`t run down the street? I mean, Congresswoman Bass, he didn`t say there`s a man running down the street. He said there`s a Black male running down the street.
BASS: Well, just like the lawyer who talked about what he had done, he was jogging. He was jogging. That is not a crime.
And yes, the reason why they ran after him was because he was a Black man. If it had been a white man that had jogged down the street, I don`t think father and son would have jumped in their trunk -- truck and hunted them down the way they hunted Ahmaud down.
CAPEHART: You know, I have to say, if I were jogging on that street and I saw a pickup truck with a Confederate flag on it with three white men with guns chasing me, I would view that as an existential threat. I just would.
BASS: Absolutely you would. Because there was no reason for him to have known or thought that this was law enforcement. And in fact, they were not law enforcement.
But there is the perception that any random white individual has the ability, the freedom, and the power to police any black person, law enforcement or not. And the defense`s attempt to talk about their law enforcement background and their training as being part of the reason why they did what they did was just, you know, completely inappropriate.
I`m sure that Ahmaud was terrified when he saw those folks doing exactly what they did, which is hunted him down.
CAPEHART: Absolutely. Congresswoman Bass, given the verdict today and given the verdict that we saw out of Kenosha in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial where he was found not guilty, and as the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I would love your view on where we are as a country in the wake of those two different jury decisions.
BASS: Well, and I would actually add the other jury decision in the lawsuit in Charlottesville. We had two out of three victories. And I think that`s really good. But I think that it is very important to see this on a case-by-case basis.
It is wonderful that they were convicted today. But we should all remember, I believe, the only reason they were convicted, the only reason they were even arrested was because a videotape was leaked. I don`t think that you should have to have a videotape in order to consider something as a crime if a person is hunted down like that. I think what happened in Kenosha was a travesty.
I mean, basically it gave a green light to vigilantism, which is why this verdict was so important, because to have had two verdicts giving a green light to vigilantism would have really been terrifying.
CAPEHART: Absolutely terrifying.
Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Have a great thanksgiving.
BASS: You, too, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: Coming up, the lowest unemployment claims in more than 50 years and massive infrastructure investment money headed to places around the country. So what are Democrats hearing from their voters about all this? That`s next.
CAPEHART: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits just fell to the lowest level since 1969 dropping to 199,000. President Biden said those numbers reinforce, quote, "the historic economic progress we are making and the importance of building on that progress."
Much of the country`s economic progress is due to the Democrats` COVID relief package. The Biden administration hopes to build upon that progress with a bipartisan infrastructure law and the Democrats` Build Back Better Act, which passed the House last week.
Marcela Garcia, an opinion columnist for the Boston Globe, cites the low unemployment rate for Hispanic workers and the extension of the child tax credit as proof that Biden`s economic policies are working in particular for the Latinx community.
Quote, "The truth is that Biden`s three historic and sweeping pieces of legislation stand to benefit Latinos greatly. Democrats need to keep touting the sweeping economic gains Latinx communities are experiencing and will continue to reap thanks to Biden."
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of Texas. Congressman, thank you very much for coming to THE LAST WORD. You represent McAllen and points north. How`s the local economy and what`s on voters` minds right now?
REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): That`s right. It`s robust. Unemployment is super low in our area. Everyone who wants a job can get one. We`re getting back on track.
Obviously, COVID levels have dropped dramatically in my district. We went through a really tough time this past few years. We lost over 3,000 constituents within my district. And Biden has really given us a shot in the arm that we needed. Not only speaking in terms of vaccines but actually economically we`re back on track.
The borders are open. Our bridges are open again. Commerce is flowing. Tourism is coming back to south Texas. And better times are ahead for the working-class American.
CAPEHART: That is good to hear for the folks in your district. Congressman, before voting for the Build Back Better Act last week you had voiced concerns. So what changed your mind?
Well, my only concerns were on the paid fors. We wanted to make sure that Texas didn`t get targeted just because we`re an energy-producing state. But at the end of the day I think we were able to figure it out. And certainly Build Back Better is the largest investment in American history for working-class people.
And we couldn`t be more proud to have passed this bill. It`s going to be transformative and life-changing for many Americans, many Latino-Americans.
As you know, for the first time we`ll have fully funded pre-k programs for 3 and 4-year-olds. Less than 1 out of 5 Latino children in America have the privilege of pre-k programs. We now have funded childcare for working-class families. We did a lot for our seniors.
We are finally for the first time in American history negotiating pharmaceutical pricing. Insulin, which is huge in the Latino community, we have a lot of diabetes in south Texas, $35 cap on insulin shots. Max $2,000 a year out of pocket.
These are transformative changes that haven`t been ever made in this country. President Biden and this administration is doing it. But the majority of people agree that this is the right thing to do. And I think we`re going to keep the House if we keep on track.
CAPEHART: So you`ve explained what`s in the bill and you`ve explained how the bill will be beneficial to your constituents. I`m just wondering, do voters say they`ve been turned off by the sausage-making process? Because it hasn`t been cute.
GONZALEZ: Yes. I mean it`s complicated, right? But that`s what American -- that`s how American policy is made. The Democratic Party is a large tent. We`re not limited to a small segment of society the way many Republicans view the world.
And we have some good deliberation and some good arguments within our family and we figured it out. And I think this is -- this is good news for the American people and I think we`re going to see some really impactful changes for working-class Americans.
CAPEHART: Let me ask you one more sausage-making question. And as you see at the bottom it says "Senate aims to pass Biden`s social bill before Christmas". My question to you, do your constituents care when Build Back Better gets passed? Are they focused on the end of the year or are they focused on just get this thing passed?
GONZALEZ: Well, we just need to get it passed, right? We`ve gone through deliberation for months on end. We`ve had our ups and downs even within our party. I think the American people not only in my district but across the country are ready to pass this bill, get it behind them. And let`s keep working for more transformative changes to our country.
CAPEHART: Last question for you in the minute that we have left. Your Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a new redistricting map. What is the impact of gerrymandering in Texas, particularly on making sure there`s fair representation for Latino voters?
GONZALEZ: Well, it`s been -- it`s been awful under the governor and Republican leadership in the state of Texas. As you know, my particular district, they ran over a quarter of a million people out of my district and my neighboring district. Latino growth, which is 75 percent of the growth in this state, over 95 percent for minorities, we did not get a single seat beyond, you know -- = it`s going to be carried on the shoulders of this governor.
I think you`re going to see this next election people remember it when they go to the polls. People are really upset at Governor Abbott these days in south Texas and across the state.
CAPEHART: Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Happy Thanksgiving.
GONZALEZ: Happy Thanksgiving to you.
CAPEHART: Coming up -- you heard him. Congressman Gonzalez is feeling bullish about Democrats keeping the House. But to do that they have to hold Hispanic voters. Maria Teresa Kumar and Stephanie Valencia join us on that next.
CAPEHART: A recent report from Equus Labs, a Latino polling and research firm, shows that Latinos were a critical part of the coalition that won Democrats the White House and the Senate.
But Trump and the Republican Party made gains with Latinos that cut across a wide range of states. Nationwide Trump won 38 percent of Latino voters. Ten points better than he did in 2016 and 11 points better than Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee.
Until Trump won that bigger than expected share of the Latino vote nationwide in 2020, the voting habits of a group long seen as a reliable Democratic voting bloc rarely received the kind of attention that ever- elusive Independent and swing voters do. But that may be about to change, if Democrats are smart.
Joining us now are Stephanie Valencia co-founder of Equus Labs and Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor. Thank you both very much for being here.
Stephanie, I mean, I just talked about this in the intro. Republicans hit a high mark in 2004 when George W. Bush, then president, got 40 percent of the Latino vote. Donald Trump got 38 percent in 2020. But I look back at 2012, the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, got 27 percent.
So my question to you is what accounts for that variability and how can Democrats turn the tide again with Latino voters?
STEPHANIE VALENCIA, CO-FOUNDER, EQUUS LABS: Well, one of the things that we saw in the 2020 election was that fundamentally was a referendum on the economy, reopening the economy and COVID and all of those things kind of taken together.
We know that Latinos were disproportionately impacted by COVID, the economics` effect of COVID. And so because we weren`t actually talking about immigration in the same way that we were in 2016 and 2018 that really -- which became a real defining issue in those two elections that really defined Donald Trump and the Republican Party. You know, 2018, those midterms were at the height of the family separation crisis.
In 2020 we saw an election that was dominated by COVID and the economic reopening. And so as a result we believe it gave many Latino voters a permission structure to actually vote for Donald Trump.
And so now that we are kind of moving beyond that and heading toward the midterms and have seen a lot of activity and action as it relates to the infrastructure deal, potentially the BBB passing the Senate here really soon, those programs will have a disproportionate impact on Latino families in this country and it`s really Democrats` responsibility to make sure they know that.
Right now Joe Biden is sitting at roughly 63 percent approval rating among Latino voters, which may sound somewhat good to us but there`s a lot of room for growth. He`s got to be pushing toward 70 percent among Latino voters as we head into the midterm elections.
CAPEHART: You know, Democrats, as we all know, just narrowly lost Virginia and narrowly won New Jersey, leaving many concerned about the 2022 midterms.
Eduardo Gamara (ph), professor of Latin American studies at Florida International University in Miami, told Politico that Democrats quote, "are not getting behind issues that really speak to Latinos".
CAPEHART: So Maria Teresa, we know Latinos are not a monolith, but what are some issues that speak most to Latino voters? Stephanie was just outlining economy and other issues. But is there an elusive basket of issues that Democrats just aren`t paying attention to that is staring them in the face?
MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that most -- one of the things that coming out of the pandemic we learned, Jonathan, is when we talk about essential workers, when we talk about the individuals who have died disproportionately, sadly, of COVID it is Latino families.
I`ll give you an example. In California people who are aged 35 to 49 make up 41 percent of that population in California. Sadly, they are 71 percent of the deaths under COVID. So we`re talking about a generation of Latinos who have died.
So when you ask what`s going to impact them, it`s going to be the economy, it`s going to be health care, it`s going to be access to childcare so that their children can go have a good quality health care -- excuse me, childcare -- while families go back to work.
And at the same time, and this is one of the things that the Build Back Better is really important to have, the way that Latinos differentiate between Republicans and Democrats is that they know that the Democrats are on their side when it comes to immigration. And that`s different from what`s happening at the border.
There`s 60 million Americans who live in mixed status families meaning that one person in their family is undocumented. This idea of providing some sort of reprieve for some of those 11 million people will be a changemaker for the Democrats. And the Republicans know that. So we`re going to be watching very closely what happens in the Build Back Better.
But the other thing to keep in mind is that the vote that happened in 2020 was very much along generational lines. 60 percent of Latinos are under the age of 33, and 7 out of 10 young Latinos voted for Joe Biden compared to 6 out of 10.
A Latino turns 18 every 30 seconds. We`re expecting just in Texas alone a quarter of a million more young Latinos voters eligible to participate next year when Greg Abbott is on the line. And that`s why there`s such incredible enthusiasm right now for Beto O`Rourke, because there`s a lot of opportunity right now.
If you were to ask me though what concerns me the most, is that the vote you were able to cast last year will count next year. And that`s because of the incredible gerrymandering that`s happening.
And so not only does Congress need to pass Build Back Better, it also needs to pass the Freedom to Vote Act because the gerrymandering that`s happening in Texas, in Georgia, in Arizona, they disproportionately impact young people. And who are those young people in those states? Latinos.
CAPEHART: And so Stephanie, in the time that we have, in the minute that we have left, what`s your advice for Democrats then targeting Hispanics in 2022?
VALENCIA: Well, Democrats are really great at passing laws. We`re not always really great at selling them once they pass. So Democrats really need to go out and sell this bill to Latino voters. All the elements of immigration -- of the infrastructure package and all the elements of Build Back Better. There`s so much that will improve the lives of Latino working families in both of these pieces of legislation.
Latino voters historically and in our latest polling don`t necessarily trust Democrats on the economy in the same way that they do Republicans. This is a moment and an opportunity for Democrats to show them something else and to show them that they can govern a strong economy.
And as Maria Teresa just said, immigration is a huge defining and differentiating issue between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats cannot be afraid to lean into immigration in Build Back Better because there`s something that immigration -- differentiating on immigration can provide. The economic policies will not do in and of themselves.
CAPEHART: Stephanie Valencia, you just answered a question that was here in my mind that I was about to ask and ran out of time. So I appreciate that, on immigration.
Maria Teresa Kumar. Thank you both very much for joining tonight. Happy Thanksgiving.
KUMAR: Happy Thanksgiving.
CAPEHART: Coming up, one America, one week, two verdicts. Brittany Packnett Cunningham joins us on that next.
CAPEHART: One country, one week, two very different verdicts. Today a jury in Georgia just found three white men guilty in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. But last week a jury in Wisconsin found 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder for shooting and killing two men during protests over the shooting by a white police officer of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man who is now paralyzed.
Not guilty of murder but Kyle Rittenhouse still shot and killed those two men, and the conservative right, amid a rise in politically and racially motivated violence, is elevating this armed white teenage vigilante into a hero.
Fox gave Kyle Rittenhouse an open forum to defend himself this week. Attention-seeking House Republicans who we won`t give extra attention by naming them, are fawning over hiring Rittenhouse as their congressional intern.
And get this, one especially fervent attention seeker wants to award Rittenhouse a congressional gold medal.
And the spiritual leader of the Republican party, the very fine people on both sides of the a Nazi rally guy, Donald Trump, welcomed Kyle Rittenhouse to his home in Florida and is now calling him, quote, "a really good young guy".
Joining me now is veteran social justice activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a former member of President Obama`s 21st Century Policing Task Force. She`s now host of the podcast "Undistracted" and an MSNBC contributor.
CAPEHART: Brittany, I heard you earlier today and here`s my question. How do you square this week in the American justice system?
BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I understand it as part of the repeated pattern. And I understand it as a warning.
So I`m thinking of 1964, the trial of Byron de la Beckwith is happening, he is the man, who of course, murdered the incredible civil rights icon Medgar Evers in the driveway of his own home in the Deep South in Mississippi. He`s also the man who was twice acquitted of that same murder.
In 1964, the Mississippi governor at the time Ross Barnett marches into the courtroom, and he shakes the hand of Byron de la Beckwith in front of the jury before they start their deliberations. So this kind of pattern of approval seeking and approval granting from the powers that be whether they be current governors or former presidents is part of the pattern of American history.
I`m also thinking about trials like the Emmett Till trial. I`m thinking about the non-conviction of Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson in 2014. There`s a long pattern -- a long thread here of not only this criminal legal system letting people off the hook for doing the job that too often it wants to be able to do itself of controlling and reining in black people and black freedom.
But I`m also thinking of the particular thread that then takes those folks and lionizes them, that they want to create another statue to stand at that altar of white supremacy that they can worship and that they can learn from.
And that is not only sick and twisted but it`s dangerous because it`s about signaling to the rest of us that they have a complete and total disregard for our humanity. They`ll continue to do so, and they don`t have any regard for any order that they themselves do not set.
So even with the guilty verdicts in the trial of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery this week, we have to recognize that that stands in the shadow of that Rittenhouse verdict and it stands in the shadow of all of the grandiose gestures that we`re seeing from members of the GOP who are trying to make Kyle Rittenhouse their hero and their children`s example.
CAPEHART: You know, Brittany, "New York Times" columnist Charles Blow low writes, quote, "The great threat and real possibility is that there are other Rittenhouses out there, young men who watched this verdict and saw how the Right has embraced and celebrated a murderer and now want to follow his lead."
Brittany, how can our country respond to white vigilantes being inspired by the Rittenhouse acquittal?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think that Charles Blow is spot on and the truth of the matter is it`s not probable or possible. It is a sure fact that there are other Kyle Rittenhouses out there, and we know that they`re out there because many of their parents are marching into school board meetings as we speak trying to make sure that the history of this country is not taught and that their young people are never held accountable for any of the behaviors or beliefs that they might perpetuate. That perpetuate that is going to harm against black, indigenous and other people of color in this country.
So the way for us to root this out is to start from the beginning. It is to stop talking about the symptoms and fully get at the virus. So in classrooms, in households, in houses of worship, it is about making sure that we stop being afraid to tell the truth because that failure to tell the truth puts the rest of us in danger.
CAPEHART: And on that point, you know, Capitol police officer Harry Dunn who was called the N word by rioters on January 6th wrote on "Twitter today -- I`m going to read this to you. "Kind of disheartening to see how some prominent people prop Kyle Rittenhouse up as a hero, yet the brave men and women who fought and defended the Capitol on January 6th have to continue to fight just for the truth to be told about that day."
Why do you think the conservative right is praising Kyle Rittenhouse but obstructing efforts to find the truth out about January 6th?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, they`re doing so because it then gives them permission to extend the violence that they want to extend through policy, through behavior, through model creation to make sure that the Proud Boys and the Neo-Nazis have a pathway to follow.
This is all about setting themselves up for the future. We are in the final years of a long-standing GOP plan to get rid of our rights, to get rid of our freedoms, and to make sure fundamentally that a white supremacist social order is maintained.
So they want to make sure that they lionize the people who help them convey that message, and they want to make sure they push aside any kind of messages or truths that might make them look as hypocritical and problematic as they are.
CUNNINGHAM: You know, the truth coming out on January 6th, the guilty verdicts that we saw in the Arbery trial today, that was literally the very least that we are owed.
CUNNINGHAM: And you know just how much it took us to even get a semblance of that kind of accountability. So this work is going to continue.
CAPEHART: And with that -- Brittany Packnett Cunningham, as always thank you for joining us.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.