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Beyond history: Other Voices

In many ways, I think I try to be an adult. Maybe that’s why I drink my coffee black and try to perfect the art of writing checks. It’s why I tune into “Forum with Michael Krasny” on NPR, a discussion on current events, every morning when I drive to my internship. Some days, I’ll admit, I could care less about the topic, like the technology of reading license plates. But other times, I care a lot.

Take the June 26 “Forum,” for example. The topic on everyone’s lips, of course, was the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, cases that constituted huge wins for supporters of gay marriage. Listeners called in, expressing their thrill or disappointment, but one caller stood out.

“I just hope that people don’t forget in their euphoria what happened to the Voting Rights Act yesterday,” the listener said, referring to the Supreme Court’s egregious gutting of the Voting Rights Act in its June 25 ruling re Shelby County v. Holder.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 required states with a history of racial discrimination to clear any changes to election law with the federal government to protect voters – usually minorities – from discriminatory practices. In a 5-4 decision, the justices last week struck down the formula to determine areas of preclearance, crippling the Act. It was a huge blow to civil rights groups and a slap in the face to any voter who worries about getting to the polls safely. The argument for the ruling undermined and neglected the fact that the Act is still indispensible in controlling today’s discriminatory practices.

I am outraged with the decision, but I wonder how many of my peers, friends and colleagues care. The ruling certainly generated news coverage on the day it was announced, but I worry about what the listener on “Forum” pointed out – that in an ocean of euphoria or outrage over gay marriage, people may forget about the VRA’s demise.

Last week was crazy – anyone who follows national news knows that. With all the victories or disappointments, we gravitate toward buzzwords instead of regarding all the issues.

I’ll be blunt. I wonder whether gay marriage and reproductive rights are the only issues that my generation, one of teens and rosy-cheeked college students, know and care about. We were in high school when Proposition 8 passed and now are in college as it falls. We debated reproductive rights and watched Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ heroic filibuster. It’s poetic history, stories that rise and fall in front of our eyes.

It is easy for us to forget about the history we didn’t witness, like the fight for civil rights. We live in a safe town with an open mind, and we grew up thinking discrimination was dead.

We care about equality, but we don’t view all issues equally. Just because we didn’t grow up to see it happen doesn’t mean it isn’t real. We can’t forget that these problems still hurt us. The story continues.

Maybe that’s what being an adult is about, beyond the coffee drinking and the check writing – caring about the news and today’s issues, realizing they still exist, to nurture history.

Sophie Ho, a 2012 graduate of Mountain View High School, is an editorial intern at the Town Crier. She is a student at UC Berkeley.

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