A University of Texas Report Will Find That ‘The Eyes of Texas’ Has “No Racist Intent”Breaking News
tags: racism, Texas, University of Texas, football, minstrelsy, Eyes of Texas
Editor's Note: The University's since-issued report is detailed here.
Last summer, after nationwide protests erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death, a group of University of Texas at Austin athletes posted an open letter on social media. They vowed not to participate in recruiting or fundraising events until the university had done more to reckon with its racist history. The school agreed to several of their requests, including changing the names of multiple buildings on campus, erecting a statue at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium of the first Black football letterman, and renaming the football field in honor of former running backs Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
The final item in the athletes’ letter, however, proved particularly controversial. Writing about the school’s alma mater, the athletes had pressed for “the replacement of ‘The Eyes of Texas’ with a song without racial undertones.” Many have objected to its debut at a turn-of-the-twentieth-century minstrel show and the legend that the song’s title and refrain had roots in a favored phrase of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
“The Eyes of Texas,” though, wasn’t going anywhere. The song has been an integral part of the lives of UT alumni for generations. It is performed at weddings, funerals, and birthday parties, and, of course, by as many as 100,000 fans at Longhorn football games. Astronaut Alan Bean famously had the lyrics printed on a piece of silk so that he could take them on his 1969 trip to the moon.
In July, UT president Jay Hartzell, who began his tenure as interim president in April 2020 and received the job officially last September, wrote in an email, “‘The Eyes of Texas’ should not only unite us, but hold all of us accountable to our institution’s core values. But we first must own the history.” Over the following months, the song would continue to be performed at football games, the players would be asked to stand for it, and the controversy would only escalate.
In November, Hartzell announced a 24-person committee tasked with examining the history of “The Eyes.” The committee includes former athletes, current students, historians, and alumni, and is chaired by Richard Reddick. Reddick, who is Black, is the associate dean for equity, community engagement, and outreach in the UT College of Education.
On Tuesday morning, the university will release the work of “The Eyes of Texas” commission. The report will be nearly one hundred pages long and will feature videos and extensive footnotes. Texas Monthly has learned of the report’s major findings. Most notably: the panel failed to uncover any “racist intent” in the lyrics, nor could it find any historical connection between the lyrics and anything said or written by Lee, as had previously been believed (though it did find connections to a different Confederate general).
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