The “Eyes of Texas” is under fire once again.
It’s the school song of the University of Texas at Austin, performed by the marching band at university athletic events. The song gained national attention shortly after the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, as many pointed out that the origin of the song is racially insensitive. A group of UT-Austin football players asked that the school remove the tune as the school’s song in order to make the university “more comfortable and inclusive for the Black athletes and the Black community that has so fervently supported this program.”
Pushback against the song caused the university to look into the origins of the tune, and according to a March 2021 report by UT-Austin, the song was first played at a student-organized minstrel show in 1903 and more than likely performed in blackface. However, the report stated that the song “had no racist intent.”
Following the report, in April 2021, the UT-Austin Butler School of Music announced that the Longhorn Band would continue to perform the song and that band members would be required to participate.
“We need to celebrate and nurture what makes UT special, and the Longhorn Band is one of those great organizations that shape our campus culture, elevate school spirit and provide amazing opportunities for our students,” UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell said in the release. “Our multi-million-dollar commitment over the next five years will support the Longhorn Band in restoring — and even going beyond — its former glory, while also providing strong support for our entire portfolio of university bands.”
UT-Austin also announced the creation of a separate band in which the band members would not be required to perform the “Eyes of Texas.” That band is scheduled to form in the fall of 2022.
Now, as the 2021 college football season is underway, those that oppose playing the song are renewing their efforts to have it banned.
On Friday, the Texas chapter of the NAACP along with a handful of anonymous students filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. In the complaint, UT-Austin is accused of “creating a hostile environment for Black students by continuing to play the ‘The Eyes of Texas’ alma mater song at university events,” per The Texas Tribune.
“(UT’s actions) are a violation of the university’s obligation under the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and clearly in violation of the university’s responsibility to provide a violence- and intimidation-free environment for our young students so they can pursue their education the same as others,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP.
The complaint alleges that the university violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by failing to “respond to racial harassment against Black students and others who oppose the song.” The complaint also states that the creation of a “separate marching band for students who do not want to play ‘The Eyes of Texas’ violates equal protections afforded under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The Longhorn Band performed the “Eyes of Texas” this past weekend in the home opener for Texas football against Louisiana. In January, newly hired head football coach Steve Sarkisian said, “I know this much, ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is our school song. We’re going to sing that song. We’re going to sing that proudly.”
“Whenever there’s an event where it’s played, I feel uncomfortable, because it’s almost like a song of white supremacy, and it just holds all those negative connotations of the 1900s and of most minstrel shows,” Al-Nassar Lawal, president of the UT-Austin chapter of the NAACP said in an interview. “That’s the imagery that comes to my mind.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.