HOUSTON - The Texas Legislative Black Caucus and NAACP leaders joined the fight this week to cancel "The Eyes of Texas" alma mater song from the University of Texas at Austin.
This comes after UT decided to keep the song after a commissioned report found the song was "not overtly racist."
The findings from that commissioned report were released earlier this month.
However, some students, lawmakers and civil rights advocates say the song’s ties to Confederate General Robert E. Lee and minstrel shows are racist, and must go.
State Representative Ron Reynolds of Missouri City is leading the charge to advocate on behalf of UT students, who want the school to reconsider removing the Eyes of Texas for its racist roots.
Reynolds knows what it's like to be a trailblazer; he’s first Black state representative to serve in Fort Bend County since the Reconstruction era. Reynolds said he's been in constant communication with UT's President Jay Hartzell.
"The university has taken the position that they are not going to remove the song but are willing to look at other things that they could do to make accommodations. The President has been very accommodating. We’re talking about increasing African-American enrollment, things like African-American faculty and staff, more African-American retention of the students, graduation rates," Reynolds said.
During a news conference outside the Texas Capitol Monday, Reynolds joined local NAACP leaders as UT students expressed the pain they feel when they hear the school’s alma mater song.
"If you affected me, if you affected anyone in a negative way, then you shouldn't be recognized for that," said Zion James, a UT sophomore.
"In my opinion, I think at the very least it needs to be re-orchestrated, at the very least, if you're not gonna get rid of it. I need you to meet these demands and make a song that's inclusive, that has Black voices because when the song was written, it for sure didn't have any Black voice in it absolutely," said Judson Hayden, a Longhorn band member.
Reynolds believes the solution will be a complex mix of tradition and understanding.
"The younger people, they’re in this post George Floyd era. They’re socially conscious, they’re "woke" and they’re like we’re not having any of that. We want it down and we wanted it down yesterday. We will march. We will picket. We will protest. We will encourage people to transfer and go to other schools," Reynolds said.
"I think you’re seeing a generational divide here. The young students, they’re charged. The students feel like the university is choosing the wealthy alumni who’s donating versus the students who have to endure the racist song. Some of the older alumni we talk to say, that’s in the past," Reynolds continued.
In a statement, a spokesperson with UT Austin said, "We look forward to working with members of the Legislature, our students and other stakeholders to continue to improve our campus, building on our recent all-time highs in minority enrollment and financial aid availability. The university is committed to seeing through the initiatives started last summer and to looking for more ways to support our students." For more info, click here.