At the end of every University of Texas at Austin football game, win or lose, the band, in their fringe jackets and white hats, plays a song. The football team will face them, raise their hand in the hook ’em sign, and sing a song that is not only a dirge, but is very racist. “The Eyes of Texas” is a spooky, slow, kind of terrifying song with origins in minstrel shows and the Confederate Army. There is absolutely no reason for the university to continue playing it.
A group of UT student-athletes posted a letter in June to social media saying they would not participate in fundraising or recruiting events unless a series of changes were made to support black athletes at the university. That included replacing “The Eyes of Texas” with “a new song without racial undertones.”
For those of you who were not steeped in UT history for four years, it is important for me to explain that “The Eyes of Texas” is not the school song. The official school song is called “Texas Fight,” is way more upbeat, makes fun of A&M, has a substituted vulgar lyric, and is not racist as hell. But that hasn’t stopped rich UT donors from demanding that the racist, unofficial school song continue being played at football games.
The Texas Tribune obtained a slew of emails from these donors via FOIA request, and they reveal a great deal about how the people whose money buys them influence on the UT campus actually see the world. The emails are petulant, aggrieved, and always threatening to pull donations from the school over the issue of a dumb little song. They are also pretty racist! Here is a sampling from the Tribune’s story:
“Less than 6% of our current student body is black. The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog….. and the dog must instead stand up for what is right. Nothing forces those students to attend UT Austin. Encourage them to select an alternate school ….NOW!”Larry Wilkinson, a donor who graduated in 1970
“”This professor is in charge of the team/ that tells us whether the song is racist or not? His Twitter account is filled with race baiting and cry baby [Black Lives Matter] junk,” the caption below the photo read. “UT better get it together and use its brains, not this biased ‘victim’ professor at UT!”Alumnus Trey Hoffman
“I do not support UT anymore (even though my family has 3 generations of graduates) because it has become a bastion of far liberal indoctrination and only teaches one point of view…liberalism. Sorry, but it is clear at UT that the white male is totally screwed unless you are ‘woke’.”Alumnus identified as Myers
For as ridiculous and embarrassing as these messages are, they seem to have done the trick. UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell already stated that the university would be keeping the song back in July, a decision that no doubt had something to do with all the threats his office received from donors. In one of the emails cited by the Tribune, a campus fundraiser sent a panicked message to the Hartzell’s office about a donor who had reached out “at 1:00 am, trying to find a way to revoke a 7-figure donation.” The message continued: “This is not hyperbole or exaggeration. Real damage is being done every day by the ongoing silence.”
Continuing to play a racist song at football games does real damage to a lot of people, too. It’s just that those people don’t have a lot of money and influence to throw around.