Whenever that word is used in America – especially when it pertains to race – it’s always from the viewpoint of the majority. As in, how white people need to learn how to be more tolerant of things outside of their norm. Which, in other words, is just a nice way of saying, “These are the things you can’t say or do to Black people in public or in the workplace.”
But, at its core, tolerance has always been about the minority. Given that we are the ones who have to decide how much racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia we are willing to deal with to succeed and navigate our way through society.
That level of tolerance is what Black athletes, Black students, Black faculty, Black staff, and Black fans of the University of Texas have to decide how much they want to deal with right now, as a recent report from the Texas Tribune exposed emails of wealthy white donors and alumni threatening to stop supporting the university and the athletic department if the school president – Jay Hartzell – doesn’t take a “strong stance” in support of the “The Eyes of Texas,” the school’s song that glorifies slavery and the Confederacy.
According to the report, from June to late October, over 70 percent of the approximately 300 people that emailed the president’s office about the song demanded that the school keep playing it, even though Hartzell publicly stated that the song wasn’t going anywhere in October.
“It’s time for you to put the foot down and make it perfectly clear that the heritage of Texas will not be lost,” wrote one donor from the class of 1986 who had their name redacted, like a coward, by the school. “It is sad that it is offending the blacks. As I said before the blacks are free and it’s time for them to move on to another state where everything is in their favor.”
And then there was this one:
“Less than 6% of our current student body is black,” wrote Larry Wilkinson, a donor who graduated in 1970. “The tail cannot be allowed to wag the dog….. and the dog must instead stand up for what is right. Nothing forces those students to attend UT Austin. Encourage them to select an alternate school ….NOW!”
Dear Black folks affiliated with the University of Texas; this is what they think of you.
Just like with the national anthem, which Hartzell has previously asked Texas athletes to stand for, we have another situation in which a large group of white people is fixated on singing a song that offends Black people. But, just like the national anthem, this has nothing to do with how great the song is written or how much it’s revered. These instances, as always, are about white people’s anger at having to acknowledge anything they’ve done, or are currently doing, is a slap in the face to Black people.
Be clear, those alumni and donors don’t give a damn about “The Eyes of Texas.” This is about power, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto it, even if it bankrupts their school and athletic department and detours students and recruits, of all races, from coming there. These people would cut off their noses, and mouths, to spite their faces.
“I know this much. ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is our school song. We’re going to sing that song. We’re going to sing that proudly,” said new head football coach Steve Sarkisian, who has a Black wife who attended an HBCU. Family conversations are going to be interesting around the dinner table during the holidays for that bunch.
And speaking of family, what is Sarkisian going to say to Black players and their families when they ask questions about his stance on the song when he’s trying to recruit them? Sarkisian isn’t Dabo Swinney, he doesn’t have the same cache or proof that he can win and send players to the NFL in droves like Swinney does, despite all the stupid things he publicly says and does. Texas is coming off a 7-3 season, which isn’t good enough for them. Sarkisian is taking over a program that’s only won 10 games once since 2010 but still stands as the most profitable college football team in the country, as it leads the nation in football revenue by pulling in over $156 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
If you scroll through Texas’ football roster, you will see more Black faces than white ones. The same can be said about their recruiting class for next season, and the basketball team that’s currently ranked 15th right now and led by a Black head coach in Shaka Smart.
Texas has quite the predicament on its hands. On one side, are the rich and wealthy white people that cut the checks and want “their song” played. And on the other, are the Black coaches, students, and athletes that entertain those folks while being the workforce that generates all those hundreds of millions of dollars, as players left the field for the singing of the song at least three times last season.