AUSTIN, Texas - A special committee report issued in early March concluded that the University of Texas at Austin's alma mater, "The Eyes of Texas," was not written with any racist intent. However, members of a new coalition said on Monday they do not accept it.
"The minstrels were performed to degrade and mock African-Americans as a form of entertainment for white people. That is as racist as it gets," said Gary Bledsoe with the Texas NAACP.
The coalition of state lawmakers, students, and activists Monday was at the Texas State Capitol calling on UT Austin to reconsider keeping the alma mater and presented several other demands.
"I think they’re reasonable, I think they’re doable, and I think they must be done," said UT Student Bar Association president Anthony Collier, who organized the coalition and Monday's news conference.
Along with removing "The Eyes of Texas," the group wants:
- more scholarships and financial aid to minority students
- increase in salaries for UT workers
- better affordable housing.
- a student support and activity center in Southeast Austin in the Riverside area
- a fully-funded initiative to attract students from historically black colleges
- buildings named for people who have links to racism to be renamed
"If you affected me, if you affected anyone in a negative way, then you shouldn’t be recognized for that, though you make great contributions, that should still be on record, that you still held people back at some point," said UT sophomore Zion James.
The group is calling on school administrators to fulfill a promise to reconsider the decision to keep the alma mater if new evidence comes to light. History professor Alberto Martinez claims his research does that and says his report corrects omissions and mistakes in the review the University released In early March.
"They said they found no evidence that this song was inspired by General Lee ... I showed with letters from the Civil War that it was inspired directly by words of General Lee. And about General Lee, words that were not quoted in the report words that show no echo in the report, so that’s one thing," said Martinez.
The Texas House Legislative Black Caucus has agreed to take the request and the fight to the 40 Acres. "Is it a dealbreaker to say that the university keeps the song, I’m not in a position to judge that, but I’m hopeful that the University will reconsider," said caucus chairman representative Ron Reynolds.
A big point of contention in all this is that the university had already decided to keep the song even before the committee report was issued. The chairman of the UT review committee, Richard Reddick, even acknowledged there would be those who will never be satisfied with it.
"And we respect that and frankly embrace that, you are still part of this community whether 'The Eyes of Texas' is the thing you’re into or not," said Reddick in a March 9th interview.
The call for change brought about the committee report spurred on by student-athletes and members of the Longhorn Band. Judson Hayden, a member of the band, hopes what they are asking for will not be immediately dismissed.
"In my opinion I think at the very least it needs to be re-orchestrated, at the very least, if you’re not gonna get rid of it, I need you to meet these demands and make a song that’s inclusive, that has black voices because when the song was written, it for sure didn’t have any black voice in it absolutely," said Hayden.
No timetable was set as to when all, or some of the demands should be met.