Tensions have boiled over at the University of Texas Austin, where the police needed to be called after an unidentified man showed up at an online meeting with a bandana covering his face and appeared to load a gun.
The song in question, “The Eyes of Texas”, has its lyrics showcased over the Admissions Welcome Centre despite students voicing issues about its racist origins. It is believed to have originated at minstrel shows where students may have worn racist blackface makeup, The Texas Tribune reported. The lyrics included, “I’ve been working on the railroad.”
The most notable action taken by students has been a refusal to give campus tours to potential incoming students. They are expected to continue with their disruption despite talks with staff.
Kendall Walker, a senior at UT Austin, said administrators believed the issue would fade away, after leadership launched a group to look into the song. Jay Hartzell, the President of UT Austin, said repeatedly that the university intended to keep the song following donors threatening to pull funds if they got rid of it.
“I think this is the tip of the iceberg honestly,” Walker told the Tribune. “This is the beginning of it and people resisting that decision and not accepting a committee of people deem[ing] the song isn’t racist. There’s a whole generation of students and minority students that are equally and more mad than we are and don’t want to enter a space that predetermined their opinions don’t matter.”
People at the Texas Tour Guide said that the song made a negative culture on campus and wanted the hanging in the admissions office to be taken down, to ensure all employees felt comfortable in their workplace. They were also mindful of the feelings of prospective students, and how it represented their school to outsiders, according to student tour guides speaking to The Texas Tribune.
A 19 April letter demanded the plaque with the lyrics gone by 1 May. The students threatened to stop giving tours, via the internet or in person if their demands were not met.
They wanted it to be replaced by a more inclusive tradition. However, on 29 April, the admissions office declined to replace the plaque and said they were not obliged to be tour guides if they felt unable to do it.
Recently, the state of Texas has been having a larger debate about the teaching of race and racism in their education system. Governor Greg Abbot and other senior Texas political figures have united against change.
“Texans reject critical race theory and other so-called ‘woke’ philosophies that maintain that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex or that any individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement.
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