Longhorn athletes call for school to eliminate ‘Eyes of Texas’ song, rename buildings to aid racial inclusivity

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A University of Texas Longhorns player has called on the school to make several changes toward racial inclusivity and anti-racism on campus.

In a letter posted to Twitter, Marqez Bimage says:

“The recent events across the country regarding racial injustice have brought to light the systemic racism that has always been prevalent in our country as well as the racism that has historically plagued our campus.”

Bimage says that on behalf of the UT student athlete body/Longhorns, they are requesting to have several issues addressed or implemented before the fall semester begins.

Requested changes include:

  • Getting rid of ‘The Eyes of Texas” and replace it with a new song
  • Renaming of several buildings, including Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall, Littlefield Hall and James Hogg Auditorium
  • Removal of the James Hogg statue
  • More diverse statues on campus designed by people of color
  • Modules for incoming freshmen to discuss the history of racism on campus
  • Outreach program for inner cities, like Dallas and Houston

The letter also calls for UT Athletics to make several changes, including:

  • More diversity in the athletic Hall of Fame, including a permanent black athletic history exhibit
  • Athletics donating .5% of annual earnings to black organizations and Black Lives Matter movements
  • Renaming of some part of the stadium after Julius Whittier, the first black football player at UT

The athletes say until the changes are made, they won’t participate in recruiting or donor events.

Other Longhorns players and UT athletes also expressed their support by tweeting out the same letter on their timelines. Athletes include Josh Thompson, MiKenna Robinson Brennan Eagles.

The call comes after widespread national movement and protests toward racial equality in general and within law enforcement following the death of George Floyd.

“The Eyes of Texas” school spirit song

The University’s school spirit song was written in 1903 and was debated by the UT Student Government as recently as 2018.

An April 2018 article for the school’s publication “The Daily Texan” titled “The Eyes of Texas: Racist tradition or cornerstone of school spirit?” the Vice Provost for Diversity Edmund T. Gordon said:

“The University of Texas, at least originally, had very clear minstrel connections. “The Eyes of Texas” was first sung and played at a minstrel show which featured performers in blackface.”

Gordon explained that the song was writen during a period of lynchings and pervasive anti-black sentiment — in addition to Jim Crow laws — and questioned whether the song could be about “minstrelsy” and school pride at the same time.

In an October 2018 article in “The Daily Texan,” titled “UT must educate new students on racism of ‘The Eyes of Texas, author Maggie Lazaroski explains that the author of the song, John Sinclair, was a member of the Varsity Minstrel Show, a performance group that “perpetuated the notion that African-Americans were lesser than whites.”

Lazaroski also posits that UT should be more transparent to incoming students about the songs origins, giving them the choice whether or not they want to participate in the tradition.

MORE: Take a 360-degree ‘Racial Geography Tour’ of UT

African-American UT senior Joshua Ellis told the Dallas Morning News in February 2019 that after learning about the song’s racist origins, he refused to sing it.

“After I took Dr. Gordon’s class during my freshman year, I immediately stopped singing the song. At football games, I sit down during the song and don’t even acknowledge it.”

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