Several students at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin have filed a civil rights complaint against the school for continuing to play its alma mater song, which they claim is “racially offensive.”
Filed before the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the federal complaint accuses the university of creating a hostile environment for Black students because of its “The Eyes of Texas” song that is allegedly offensive in origin, context, and meaning.
“The Eyes of Texas” was first sang at a minstrel show in the 1900s where students were said to be wearing blackface. Although many people and groups have asked UT Austin to stop using the song, the school insisted that it will continue to play it because it has “no racist intent.”
In a copy of the complaint obtained by The Texas Tribune, it was stated that the university failed to address racial harassment issues against Black students and others who are not in favor of the song. The plaintiffs also question the school’s decision to form a separate band for students who do not want to play the controversial song.
As of this writing, UT-Austin has yet to issue a statement regarding the issue.
‘Voices Not Heard’
Before students decided to file legal charges over “The Eyes of Texas,” several activities had been organized appealing to the university to discontinue playing the song at sporting events, graduation, and the UT Tower bells every evening.
Last month, students protested the song at a welcome event for the fall semester. Some students also staged a walkout when the song played during the spring graduation.
According to civil rights student advocate Al-Nasser Lawal, there had been several meetings between Black student groups and school administrators to discuss concerns about the alma mater song, but they produced few results.
“As Black students, we kind of feel as if it’s not like our voices are heard,” Lawal told The Texas Tribune. “The main objective of the administration and the campus is just to appease their wealthy donors so that they can continue to get that funding, and that they don’t really have our best interests at heart.”