A committee commissioned by the University of Texas – Austin in November 2020 to explore the history and potential racial undertones of the school’s alma mater, “The Eyes of Texas” has concluded that its “intent…was not overtly racist,” and has also outlined broader strategies to better educate students on inclusion as well as commissioning a “special orchestration of “The Eyes” with (a) version composed or performed by a Black musician.”
The controversy surrounding the university’s alma mater began in the Summer of 2020 following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died of asphyxiation after being knelt on by a white police officer for nearly nine minutes during an arrest. In the renewed interest in removing systemic racist symbols and tributes, students and student-athletes from the university sent a list of demands to the university president and board of regents, including the removal of “The Eyes of Texas” as the school’s alma mater. A committee to explore the history of the alma mater was subsequently commissioned as a compromise.
The committee was made up of “former students, current students, administrators, faculty members, student-athletes, retired administrators, spirit squad members, and communication specialists,” and headed by African-American Dean Professor Rich Reddick.
Earlier publications by the Associated Press and other various news outlets quote the executive summary of the report to state “The research leads us to surmise that intent of “The Eyes of Texas” was not overtly racist,” however this statement has not been found on the current release of the report hosted on the university’s website.
The report features an in-depth look into the history and context in which the song had originated, the melody of the song, and the uses of the phrase “the eyes of Texas.” The committee did verify that the song was previously presented in minstrel shows on campus, performed in black face, however, they also debunked that the phrase was traced back to Civil War Confederate General, Robert E. Lee.
The report’s release couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time as more companies continue announcing changes to become more inclusive as conservatives fight back with what they believe is an over-correction of sweeping political correctness, woke-ness, and “cancel culture” that has seen Mr. Potato Head, certain Dr. Seuss books, and Pepe Le Pew fall prey to the movement.
Although the report explicitly states that it is NOT meant to be “a cudgel to settle a debate,” it’s refreshing to see that this report did not shy away to admit that the song’s application and use in racist settings but that this doesn’t disqualify it from obtaining a meaning outside of these settings and determines that the original intent was not racist by association.
Here is the committee’s report in full