Student Government debated on Tuesday about whether to continue singing the University’s fight song “The Eyes of Texas” at its weekly meetings, amidst student and faculty criticisms that the song has a racist history.
Before debate began, representatives heard a presentation of the history of the fight song given by Ted Gordon, the vice provost for diversity.
“The University of Texas, at least originally, had very clear minstrel connections,” Gordon said. “(‘The Eyes of Texas’) was first sung and played at a minstrel show which featured performers in black face.”
The song was written and performed in a period of intense anti-black sentiment in Texas, Gordon said. The question at hand was whether it is possible to distinguish between the song’s racist past and its place as a University tradition and declaration of school spirit. SG representatives considered whether to stop singing the song within their own meetings, a tradition that has gone back for several administrations.
Gordon said the song was established in 1903 during a period of lynchings and Jim Crow society, but he did not offer the assembly a solution for whether they should sing the song or not.
“This is definitely about minstrelsy and past racism,” Gordon said. “It’s also definitely about school pride. One question is whether it can be both those things or whether it can be one or the other.”
University-wide representative Cole Deutch suggested that the racist connotations are no longer a reality, and the song can be used as an educational tool of the University’s past.
“It’s meant school spirit for so long that the racist part of the song and the racist foundation isn’t really a factor now,” said Deutch, Plan II and economics freshman. “I feel like education is enough of a reason to … still use the song.”
Jakob Lucas, a liberal arts representative, said the assembly should stand by its values of representing all students.
“Unless anyone legitimately thinks that we should add a verse on at the end where we address the systemic oppression that comes from this song … then we can’t address it; we can’t use it as a mechanism of education,” said Lucas, a government freshman. “As representatives, we have to stand by our values … I’d be willing to bet that there are a lot of people who share our concerns.”
When the meeting adjourned, representatives did not sing “The Eyes of Texas,” but they may vote to sing it in the future.