Editor's note: This column was submitted to the Texan by a member of the UT community.
Just after I was elected to be a Universitywide representative in the spring of 2018, I took part in a Student Government assembly meeting where we debated if members of SG at UT should continue singing “The Eyes of Texas” at the end of each assembly meeting.
There were multiple students, mainly students of color, who described the song's racist undertones, stemming from its origin in minstrel shows with ties to Confederate general Robert E. Lee. These students said that singing “The Eyes of Texas” made them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in the space.
As a white, out-of-state freshman who recently adopted any and every UT tradition, I loved belting out “The Eyes of Texas,” either at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after a Horns win with my fraternity brothers, or at SG assembly meetings. I argued in favor of keeping the song at our meetings, saying that enough time had passed that the song no longer had racist connotations, thinking that a large majority of the students I represented felt the same way.
I can see that my feelings on this over two years ago came from a place of ignorance. I had never been personally affected by the song, so why should I have to stop singing it? I thought that because the racist connotations of “The Eyes of Texas” did not impact me — and because I stood with tens of thousands of people singing the song after every football game — that most of the student body agreed with me.
I learned over the past two years, through conversations with friends, reading and, most importantly, participating in the recent protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, that it is not my voice on this issue that matters. It is the voices of our brave student-athletes and students of color that are fighting for meaningful change at UT that need to be driving the conversation about racism on campus. They are the ones who have had to endure the hardship of the song for decades. In an Austin American-Statesman article, former Texas football player Sam Acho said, “Most Black players hated singing that song, we were required to. We knew about the racial undertones but didn’t know how to address them.”
If we take a step back, it’s clear to me that this is an inflection point at UT. Hundreds of thousands of Black Americans have been protesting for weeks, making clear that their voices deserve to be heard. Here at UT, students no longer feel their voices can be drowned out — they are standing up and fighting for what they feel is right, even if that means upending what I and other white students and alumni had come to view as a sacred tradition, dating back to 1903.
Many of us don’t want to have this conversation. It is hard, uncomfortable, challenging. We’ve sung the song for the years we’ve been on campus, or even since some were children, and many of us saw no need to think twice about the song’s past or its meaning. But now is the time to think twice. Now is the time to listen to how Black Longhorns have always heard this song. Now is the time to stand with our athletes and students of color. Now is the time to be uncomfortable, just for a little bit, to give thousands of our fellow UT students the peace of mind that their University stands with them and for them. Now is the time to create a more welcoming University of Texas, and if that includes changing “The Eyes of Texas,” then I am all for it.
Deutch is a Plan II and economics senior from Boca Raton, Florida.