University of Texas Decides Its Song Isn't Racist

Dropping 'The Eyes of Texas' had met with outrage
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2021 4:12 PM CST
Texas Decides Its Song Isn't Racist
University of Texas players sing "The Eyes of Texas" after a game last October in Austin.   (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

The title is a twist on something Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee said, and it made its debut in a minstrel show, but "The Eyes of Texas" will continue to be sung at the end of football games. A University of Texas committee charged with studying the history of the song to assess whether it's racist in nature has cleared it. "The research leads us to surmise that intent of 'The Eyes of Texas' was not overtly racist," the committee's report says. "However, it is similarly clear that the cultural milieu that produced it was." Several Black players had questioned the tradition last summer and were told they didn't have to stay on the field for the song, the Washington Post reports. The school's marching band stopped playing it. But after a big loss, outrage from fans and alumni followed, and donors threatened to pull their support. The song returned.

The panel found "The Eyes of Texas" was first performed in a minstrel show in 1903. The performers wore blackface in the show but probably took it off before the song, the committee said, in keeping with the shows' custom of removing blackface if the lyrics weren't intended to be funny. "You cannot deny that that performance has the racial undertones," school President Jay Hartzell said, per ESPN. "Hateful things. But on the other hand, if you look at the way, to me, the song was composed, written and designed. ... It was not designed for that." The committee's recommendation is that no one on campus be required to sing the alma mater. But one former player said there's little choice. Caden Sterns left school a year early after hearing alumni threats that he wouldn't be able to find a job in Texas if he didn't sing. Partly because of that, he declared for the NFL draft. "I knew for sure that I wasn't going back to Texas," Sterns said. (Read more University of Texas stories.)

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