The University of Texas (UT) resisted woke calls to cancel the school’s song, “The Eyes of Texas,” following the racialization of many aspects of American society last year following the death of George Floyd.
The song was written in 1903 in response to students wanting a school song and it’s now played before and after UT sporting events.
The following are the lyrics to the song:
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn —
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
‘Til Gabriel blows his horn.
“Few would say those lyrics are racist, but UT Professor Dr. Edmond Gordan explained the nodes of racism won’t be found in the ‘The Eyes of Texas’ lyrics but in the song’s past,” KHOU-TV reported last June, just a couple of weeks after Floyd’s death. “Gordan said ‘The Eyes of Texas’ was originally a satirical song once performed at minstrel shows, which are comedic variety shows featuring white performers in blackface.”
The school says that its Longhorn Band will be required to play the song, including at sporting events, and, if band members object to it, then they can join a separate band that the university will create that won’t be required to play it.
“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,” said University of Texas at Austin President Jay Hartzell, who approved the plan. “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.”
The school published a lengthy 59-page report on the song that said that there was “no racist intent” in the song. “A 24-person committee was tasked with researching the song’s history and cataloging anything remotely possible about the song’s origins and historical use,” Hookem.com reported. “The school believes the report uncovers important facts and historical context never known before.”
The school highlighted the following in the executive summary of the report:
- The Eyes of Texas” Remains Our Alma Mater: President Hartzell stated in July 2020 that “The Eyes of Texas” would remain UT’s alma mater, the UT System Board of Regents supported his decision, and the Eyes of Texas History Committee was created with the sole authority to research and understand the song’s history, as well as institutional and broader historical uses since its inception.
- The History of the Song Reflects the History of America: The history of “The Eyes of Texas” mirrors the history of the United States, Texas, The University of Texas at Austin as well as its band and sports teams. This complexity creates an opportunity for continued learning, sharing and understanding.
- Facts and Historical Context Matter: Research by the committee has uncovered important facts and historical context, some of which has never been systematically compiled and analyzed until now. These historical facts add complexity and richness to the story of a song that debuted in a racist setting, exceedingly common for the time, but, as the preponderance of research showed, had no racist intent in that it was intended to parody the famous phrases of the university president. However, systemic racial intent existed in the setting and culture where the song debuted. The exclusion of Black students at that time presents an opportunity to think about how they and other communities of color have fought for inclusion and the work that remains to ensure all members of our community feel they belong.
- Living Out the Meaning: From its inception, “The Eyes of Texas” has always been a song about accountability. Therefore, the spirit and intention of the song compels the university to be transparent about its past and be ever more accountable to the state and its diverse people. In this sense, the work of the committee was a microcosm of what the university should stand for: research, getting to the facts, seeking to understand others’ viewpoints, continuing to learn, courageously confronting and acknowledging our history, and finding ways to strengthen our community going forward.