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Is the University of Texas alumni song racist? Student athletes speak out against 'Eyes of Texas.'

Controversy has been brewing for months at the University of Texas at Austin as student-athletes petitioned the school to stop playing the school's alma mater song, "The Eyes of Texas."

The issue is that the origins of the song are allegedly steeped in racism. It was written in 1903 by two students who were inspired by speeches given by then-UT President William Prather, in which he used the phrase "The eyes of Texas are upon you." Prather himself had been inspired by General Robert E. Lee—leader of the Confederate army that fought for the right to own slaves—who used to say "the eyes of the South are upon you."

That's not all. The song is set to the tune "I've Been Workin' On the Railroad," which has its own questionable origins, and according to the Austin American-Statesman, "The song debuted at a Varsity minstrel show, a fundraiser for UT athletics, and was at some points performed by white singers in blackface." (Minstrel shows were a long, disturbing part of America's history of racism, in which white performers made themselves into caricatures of Black people and Black performers acted out cartoonish stereotypes in order to entertain audiences.)

This summer, in the midst of nationwide protests against racial injustice, students at the university launched a petition asking the school to confront its historic ties with the Confederacy in the names of buildings on campus and to formally acknowledge the racial roots of the alma mater song. A second student petition asked the school to replace the song with one that didn't have "racist undertones" in an attempt "to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and the black community that has so fervently supported this program."


The school responded with a pledge to "own, acknowledge and teach about all aspects of the origins of 'The Eyes of Texas' as we continue to sing it moving forward with a redefined vision that unites our community."

The song stayed, but students protested by simply not participating in the singing of it. Some members of the school band said they didn't feel comfortable playing it, and most of the Texas Longhorns football team left the field when the song was being sung.

Some alumni and donors did not like that and made their feelings known in hundreds of emails, some of which were blatantly racist and some of which were blatantly childish.

"My wife and I have given an endowment in excess of $1 million to athletics. This could very easily be rescinded if things don't drastically change around here," wrote one donor. "Has everyone become oblivious of who supports athletics??"

It seems that this donor has become oblivious of who actually performs the athletics that they support and enjoy. Is forcing Black athletes to participate in something they feel is demeaning to them any better than asking Black performers to dance in minstrel shows in order to earn your money?

"The Eyes of Texas is non-negotiable," wrote a long-time season ticket holder and graduate. "If it is not kept and fully embraced, I will not be donating any additional money to athletics or the university or attending any events."

To be clear, the school has kept the song. They're threatening to withhold donations not because the song wasn't kept, but because Black athletes aren't fully embracing it. They might as well say, "You will not only dance for me, but you will show me you enjoy it!" Gross.

"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 a donor who graduated in 1986. "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."

So yeah, using the phrase "the blacks" is a pretty obvious tell, but saying Black people should move to another state if they don't like the racism in Texas is really something.

Caden Sterns was a team captain and safety for the Longhorns football team who left at the end of the season to enter the NFL draft. He posted yesterday on Twitter that he and his teammates were threatened by some alumni that they would "have to find jobs outside of Texas" if they didn't participate in the singing of the song. Wow.

Black athletes—especially football players in football-loving Texas—are the backbone of the athletics program these alumni and donors cling to. And these people are willing to defund the athletics program over a song? Threaten the futures of these students over a song? Take down the entire institution over a song? Who exactly are the ones reallybeing overly sensitive here?

On the one hand, we have the actual harm of hundreds of years of racial oppression being called to mind by a song with unquestionably racist undertones, which students (who are literally the purpose of a university) are asking to be changed. On the other hand, we have the hurt feelings—or rather, mild discomfort—of people who haven't been students for decades who want to be able to sing a song because they've always sung it. These alumni and donors have made it clear that their priority is tradition over all things, including the very real issue of racism and the wishes of the Black athletes they rely on for the carrying forward their favorite sport.

If UT Austin decided to change the alma mater song, do you know what would happen? Nothing. No one would be harmed. After years of controversy, the Washington Redskins finally changed their name, and what happened? Nothing. No one was harmed. It turns out people get over these things pretty quickly.

Getting over a song or team name or building name being changed is a million times easier than getting over racism that has persisted for hundreds of years and continues to this day. Traditions can be fun and unite people, but if it's not fun for everyone and is actually causing a divide, then it's time for that tradition to be replaced with a new one. This really shouldn't be that hard to understand.

Good for the students for standing their ground.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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