“Am I not human?” This one of the questions Marlon Peterson, a human rights activist and writer, asked during his recent TED Talk.

Peterson connects his experiences coming from an immigrant community and family and the ways he was systematically criminalized in the United States. Following his arrest and incarceration, Peterson reflects on how his experience in the New York State prison system influenced his endeavors to reform the criminal justice system.

This powerful TED Talk shows how important it is to rethink America’s criminal justice system. While there has been greater emphasis from activist groups on the case for prison abolition, there is still mass disagreement regarding how to address the prison system in the United States. Given the efforts of the present Justice Department to undo the work of anti-prison activists, these issues are even more important.

Peterson closes the Talk with a compelling narrative about our duty to recognize the humanity in one another.

Over the past two months, I’ve lost two friends to gun violence, both innocent bystanders. One was caught in a drive-by while walking home. The other was sitting in a café while eating breakfast, while on vacation in Miami. I’m asking myself to see the redemptive value of relevancy in the people that murdered them, because of the hard work of seeing the value in me. I’m pushing us to challenge our own capacity to fully experience our humanity, by understanding the full biography of people who we can easily choose not to see, because heroes are waiting to be recognized, and music is waiting to be made.”

Only time will tell if the work of activists and writers like Peterson will push public discourse toward meaningful reforms or abolition.

Learn more about Marlon Peterson’s work here.

Watch the full talk below and read the transcript here:

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