AuthorZirin, Dave
PositionEDGE OF SPORTS - University of Texas at Austin fight song

"The Eyes of Texas" is known far and wide as the beloved fight song of the University of Texas at Austin. But it is not universally beloved. Not by a long shot. Thousands of students and others have signed petitions calling for the school to retire the song played at sporting events, school functions, funerals, and even a 9/11 memorial.

The song's lyrics, set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," are innocent enough. It begins:

The Eyes of Texas are upon you, All the livelong day. The Eyes of Texas are upon you, You cannot get away. But the song was first performed in 1903 by students in blackface at a minstrel show to raise funds for the school track team, and its lyrics are said to embody the "lost cause" ideology.

In June 2020, several players on the University of Texas at Austin football team asked that the song be replaced by one "without racist undertones." In response, wealthy alumni have chosen to lose their collective minds, threatening to suspend donations to the school if the song is retired, according to emails made public by The Texas Tribune.

To these alumni, preserving the song is a symbolic fight against a host of real and imagined enemies, including Black students, "critical race theory," "Marxist ideology," "snowflakes," and "cancel culture."

One donor who graduated in 1986 wrote: "It's time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost. It is sad that it is offending the blacks. As I said before, the blacks are free and it's time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor."

Another missive, written by a wealthy alum named Larry Wilkinson, read, "Less than 6% of our current student body is black. The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog..... and the dog must instead stand up for what is right. Nothing forces those students to attend UT Austin. Encourage them to select an alternate school.... NOW!"

The school, in a toothless and rather predictable response, formed one of those blue-ribbon commissions to look into the matter and find common ground.

"Many believe the song is a positive unifying force that inspires Longhorns to do their best," the school's president, Jay Hartzell, wrote in an email. "We also recognize that some feel differently. This is why we have taken the approach that we did, conducting an in-depth study of the...

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