Trayvon Martin and the American Judicial System

A few hours ago the ruling of “not guilty” by a six-women jury permeated the now infamous courtroom in Stanford, Florida, as George Zimmerman will not serve any jail time for killing unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.

Twitter is blowing up. I had to shut it off. So much heartache as well as so many crazy blasphemous 140 character statements, and nothing anyone can do about them. I pray for peace tonight and the coming days for forthcoming protests sure to happen around the country.

I did have a few quick thoughts about this situation and the American judicial system:

It’s broken and it will never be fixed. Ever.

Recent history alone:

Rodney King. 

OJ Simpson.

George Zimmerman.

Any of the idiotic rulings continually letting Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan off the hook. 

There is such a thing as white privilege. There is such a thing as celebrity bias. And there is most definitely such a thing as a corrupt and inept judicial system.

I have said this for years–regardless of what the “court” rules on anything, including the Supreme Court, it is of lesser importance than public engagement with the given topic. Always has been. Always will be. Just take last month’s Supreme Court ruling on DOMA and Prop 8. The law changed, but did millions of conservatives who had fought against gay marriage for years just change with it? Will those same traditional marriage conservatives now look at, and treat their LGBT married opponents (dare I say “neighbors”) differently because a law changed? Unfortunately, they will not.

The “court” can rule whatever they want and it does not mean that all of a sudden the masses’ moral convictions, strength of worldview or imputed systems of relational engagement just leave a person and then they change. That is not how the world works.

Too many people put too much stock in the judicial system “making things right.” A judge. A jury. They will never “make things right.”

Even if by law only, they “make things right,” it changes nothing for the masses within the portion of the structure that believe the opposite. If anything, it fires them up for the “injustice” placed upon them through disagreement. This goes both ways.

Famed sociologist Max Weber’s research and theory for social stratification understands that social change hinges on an individual’s value-oriented system of action (particularly with strongly held value systems like religion, politics and organizational power), which produces wide-spread characteristic shifts in social situations and structures. In essence, the actions of the corporate individual(s) determine the social structure.

This means that the system (judicial or otherwise) is broken because our individual ability to make wide-spread and consistent decisions toward value-oriented outcomes of justice filled with a process of integrity, are severely stifled. Stifled not by the system, but by our own doing. Therefore if the incapacitated mass, made up of broken individuals, create the boundaries of our current system, why would we ever think the system will then be able to save us or “make things right?”

Systemic justice is an illusion.

It is one we should all strive for, indeed. But banking on the system to lead the way is flawed. 

Banking on ourselves as individuals to start shifting the trend in a new direction whether anyone hops on board or not–now that is something I believe in.

I believe in it because it is based in something we can all control–ourselves. Our actions. Our engagement. Our beliefs. Our relationships. Our outlook toward humanity.

This is why everybody is so pissed tonight. They see something horrible in an inept system ruled on by our “peers” and cannot control one ounce of it.

Riots won’t change the ruling.

Neither will peaceful protests, no matter how many people.

Even if the presiding judge sees 100 million people peacefully protesting the ruling tomorrow, it was the jury of our “own peers” that made this decision. We made this decision.

And we (humanity) made this decision, and thousands of others just like it, because we’re broken.

Change the relationship of daily engagement and by generation, we’ll effectively change the “peers” of our own system.

One might be upset that justice was not served.

But they must be more upset that we contributed to it.

Start living differently. It’s literally our only hope this side of Jesus’ return.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

 

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Ian Simkins

    Brilliant, brother. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Here is my humble attempt at a response as well. I’d love to know your thoughts. Grace and peace.

    http://isimkins.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-and-the-racial-divide/

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation Andrew Marin

      Thanks! Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

  • General Tsu

    Idiot, O.j. got off for murder.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation Andrew Marin

      Exactly, OJ did get off for murder when he shouldn’t have. Hence, the reason why I included him in the list of a broken judicial system. Thanks for calling me an idiot. You’re now blocked.

  • naturgesetz

    Does the brokenness of our judicial system include the fact that juries must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt before they convict him? Because from what I read about the trial, the evidence was so inconclusive that it would be impossible for a fair minded juror to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that what happened was murder, rather than self-defense.

    (BTW, the fact that Trayvon Martin was unarmed doesn’t prove anything. Unarmed people can get angry and attack other people, who then can try to defend themselves.)

  • douglasmcclure

    Well written, Andrew. The thing about this case that you brought which should make people think is that there was a jury. It was not one individual decision. “We the People” made the decision, and “We the People” will see the consequences.

    Thanks for the concise thinking!

  • Noah Smith

    The structure of the US criminal system is shaped by deliberate policy decisions so the system isn’t broken, it works perfectly against the poor, the unconnected, women and non whites.

  • Colten

    It doesn’t matter is Martin was unarmed. He was physically overpowering and beating Zimmerman.

    To say the whole judicial system is broken is not true and is inaccurate. It’s not perfect but it’s not broken.

    To put Rodney King and OJ Simpson in the same category as Zimmerman is not fair. Zimmerman had many different aspects then Simpson and King. They are different categories.

    Hilton and Lohan have never been charged with murder, only petty things.

    To think that there is white priviledge depends on person to person. It might seem like there is but majority of African Americans live in situations where they choose to put themselves. Every person has the ability to choose where they will continue to put themselves.

    Yes, there is such thing as corrupt judicial system. But no system is perfect and by the worlds standards America has the best. Not perfect, but not broken.

    Gay Marriage is sinful and unnatural. (This really has nothing to do with the Zimmerman trial.) God giving people over to unnatural lust is actually God’s judgement. Yes the church has done a bad job but it does not mean we need to apologize. We should hate the sin, love the sinner, but we’re not perfect.

    As of right now the courts cannot rule whatever they want. They have to follow the law and the constitution.

    Things might fire a person up for injustice but they are still held responsible for there actions.

    Also, this article is biased. This article was written only because the thinking is that just was not served. But ultimately justice was served.

    Trying to get people to go in a new direction should be based out of the Word of God if we want good change to happen. Just like a Pastor should preach from what the Bible is saying, not come up with ideas and then find what parts of the Bible fit that idea.

    Not everybody is pissed. I would say the majority of people is not pissed and the minority of people is pissed.

    Ultimately Zimmerman’s peers did not think that he broke any laws and justice was ultimately served.

    Don’t be upset justice was not served because justice was served, even if the outcome was displeasing.

    Start living Holy and God Glorifying lives. But that is only possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • jontrouten

    I am the father of a black ‘tween. I have no idea anymore what to tell him to do when stalked and followed by some strange armed guy. Run? Fight back? Hold his hands up and hope that things will be okay?

    I have similar concerns for my adult mentally disabled son, but at least he’s supervised by someone all the time.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/loveisanorientation Andrew Marin

      So true. I mean, what do you say?

    • UWIR

      I’m unclear as to what has changed. Did you previously think that, when being followed by a man with a gun, attacking him is a good idea? Either he means you harm, in which case attacking him is a bad idea, or he doesn’t mean you harm, in which case attacking him is a bad idea.

      • jontrouten

        So you don’t think he should stand hs ground?

        Stupid joke, but pretty much this entire series of comments really depresses me.

  • Rick Tatina

    Andrew, thank you for the post. I don’t think it is absolutely clear what your angle is and what about the case showed that the justice system in the USA is broken. Can you clarify? I think you are assuming justice wasn’t served but a friend of mine pointed out that the system arrested, tried, and acquitted George Zimmerman. The system was involved the whole time so maybe you disagree with the verdict. I agree that court decisions do not change the masses and I appreciate that insight. I also agree that we are all “broken,” I guess I might say that we are really morally bankrupt and skewed or define it a little more precisely. How and why are we broken, that is a good question to explore? I would assume that this is why more than one individual must determine guilt or innocence in this country (jury of peers) because we realized that our system will tend to produce more corruption if power is concentrated in one place. I agree with the comments that say we shouldn’t place King or Simpson in the same category as George Zimmerman. The case doesn’t seem to compare equally to the others. I give you my nod with regard to Hilton and Lohan.

  • Kerry

    OJ Simpson!!! Really, O J Simpson!!! You gotta be kidding me. You want to equate this to OJ! You are pathetic my friend. The tragedy of justice does not fit with the scenario of Zimmerman. Your analysis would lead one to believe there is no such thing as black on white crime. You think that is the case too?

    Why no one in the Sharpton, jackson camp had any concern for the 1000′s of killed in Detroit and Chicago is beyond me. Shouldn’t there be an outrage to the black on black crimes as well? This is America and we should abhor any killing. We should figure out how to stop the most egregious of crimes.

    Your comments are even out of step with Obama.

  • http://rapturepractice.wordpress.com/ Phoenix Feather

    I found this to be a comforting response to a frustrating issue. Thanks for writing this.

  • Steve

    It baffles me why people want Zimmerman in jail. He was having is skull bashed against a concrete sidewalk when he took the shot. Zimmerman barely survived Martin committing assault with a deadly weapon. The guy is really lucky to be alive. The “Justice for Trayvon” types constantly ignore this fact, because it unravels their entire narrative.

    Anyone who insists that Zimmerman is a murderer has absolutely no reason to actually believe so other than “The media told me so, I’m sure they wouldn’t lie to me!” The corrupt-as-all-hell media is just trying to rile people up for ratings and doesn’t give a damn about collateral damage. It’s just a damn media circus. And nobody should ever, ever listen to the media when they are trying to declare a man guilty before the courts do.

    • jasmine999

      whoops.

      • Steve

        Care to explain?

        • jontrouten

          I think she accidentally posted a reply where she meant to post a comment. She then edited out the reply with a “whoops.”

          • Steve

            Ah. Thanks.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    They had a trial, did they not. Zimmerman was found not guilty. he was obviously protecting himself from attack.

    Is it a tragedy? Of course it is. Is it a travesty of justice? No. All the facts came out and the case was decided.

  • Peter J Ackerman

    I hope Zimmerman wins his lawsuit against nbc and then gives half to the Martin family. We will never have complete justice because we all have our prejudices, but this would help some..

  • jasmine999

    Great article. Zimmerman was found innocent because Florida’s Stand Your
    Ground law gives an out to any murderer who claims self defense, whether he, like Zimmerman, instigated the situation or not.

    This is clearly not practicable, so the verdict and interpretation will be very much subject to a jury’s whims. Compare what happened to Zimmerman with what happened to Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, who fired warning shots against her ex-husband, tried to invoke self defense, and ended up with a 20 year sentence.

    …and this is where any prejudices the jury might have come in. Anyone who believes race had nothing to do with the Zimmerman and Alexander verdicts is in denial.

    Another thing to remember: The US has a higher percentage of its population in jail than any other nation on the face of the earth.

  • Tia Lunt

    Judicial system is not actually the problem, it is the people within the institution who denied justice to Trayvon Martin.
    ___________________________________________________________________

    Baju Bayi


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