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Texas NAACP, Black Caucus disagree with 'The Eyes of Texas' committee report

President Hartzell to meet with state NAACP, Black Caucus leaders Friday

  • The university released a 59-page report on "The Eyes" earlier this month that concluded the song had no racial intent
  • Leaders of the Texas NAACP and Texas Legislative Black Caucus disagreed with the findings

The Texas NAACP and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and University of Texas President Jay Hartzell plan to meet Friday to discuss the university's report on “The Eyes of Texas.”

NAACP President Gary L. Bledsoe, who graduated from UT's School of Law in 1976, told the American-Statesman Wednesday that he, TLBC vice chairman Ron Reynolds and members of their organizations disagreed with the findings of the 59-page report.

"We’re opposed to it," he said. "People need to understand these students on campus don’t stand alone.”

More:‘Eyes of Texas’ report details song’s complicated history but determines ‘no racist intent’

Texas fans sing "The Eyes of Texas" during a 2020 football game versus West Virginia at Royal-Memorial Stadium. The university released a 59-page report that said the song had "no racist intent" when penned. The Texas NAACP and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus disagree with the findings.

When reached by the Statesman on Thursday, Hartzell said that conversations about the topic are important moving forward.

"I look forward to meeting with them," he said. "When we came up with the report, we realized it wasn't going to be a magic bullet that was going to make everybody agree all at once. I think having people have more of a common basis of facts is a good thing for future dialogue." 

The university’s 24-person committee, formed by Hartzell and chaired by Texas ex Richard Reddick, the associate dean for equity, community engagement and outreach in the college of education, released the report earlier this month on the history of the song and concluded that it had no racist intent.

The song was performed at minstrel shows in the early 1900s, almost certainly by white people in black face, according to the study, and there was the long-held belief that its origin came from reference to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee saying to his Washington and Lee students that “The Eyes of the South are upon you.”

The committee’s study, however, said it could find no direct link to Lee and the song.

Reynolds isn’t buying the committee’s findings.

"We are very concerned with the environment on campus," he told the Statesman. "We want to make sure that the students of all races, particularly the African Americans, feel welcome. We want to have an environment at our state institutions that don’t perpetuate racism. We stand in solidarity with the state NAACP and the students.”

As many Americans protested last year on civil rights issues amid the furor surrounding the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed while in police custody, the Texas football locker room was split on whether or not to stand and sing “The Eyes.”

More:Golden: What will change going forward now that Texas' 'Eyes' report has been released?

In June, the team joined other students and athletes and released a set of demands to the campus administration, among them a wish to remove “The Eyes” as the school song. The university acquiesced to several demands, including the removing of names of known racists from campus buildings. The football field was also renamed after Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams while a statue of Julius Whittier, the first Black varsity letterman, was erected at Royal-Memorial Stadium. 

Hartzell announced in July that the school song would remain and received support from the UT System Board of Regents. This came after Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a white player, was one of only a few Texas football players to stand for "The Eyes" after a loss to Oklahoma in Dallas. 

Several players, including linebacker DeMarvion Overshown and safety Caden Sterns were outspoken on the issue and were the targets of hateful and racist attacks on social media as a result. In emails released by the Texas Tribune, several donors threatened to pull financial support of the athletic department if the protests continued.