Athletes asking University of Texas to address history of racism on campus face resistance from fans
The dozens of University of Texas athletes who called for the school and athletics department to address a history of racism faced immediate backlash on social media.
While many students and alumni tweeted in solidarity last week, other fans and alumni strongly opposed their requests, suggesting they transfer schools and calling their requests "blackmail."
@MarqezBimage_ @TexasLonghorns Much easier to just replace the players. it works like blackmailing and ridiculous d… https://t.co/WRZ0hQVDQq— lian (@lian)1592003694.0
A major point of contention was the athletes' request to scrap the school song "The Eyes of Texas," which they are required to sing at athletic events. The song was first performed by a group of students in 1903, UT Vice Provost for Diversity Edmund Gordon said.
"The Varsity Quartet performed it in a minstrel show at the Hancock Opera House, and the assumption, because it was a minstrel show and they were minstrel performers, is that it was performed in blackface."
@BDavisAAS The eyes of texas is not racist. I mean come on people. We have to change for sure. I agree we should ad… https://t.co/wqRARBYbnS— Orren Lilly (@Orren Lilly)1591991988.0
Soon after, "The Eyes of Texas" was adopted as the university's school song, Gordon said. The words are a deviation of "The eyes of the South are upon you," a phrase often used by Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army.
@given__talent @TexasLonghorns Wow. .. . okay. .maybe I'll have to take my Horns Down after this BS.— Blondie (@Blondie)1591999301.0
"I think that a lot of people have a hard time dealing with the history of the country, the history of the state of Texas and the history of the University of Texas and would like to wish that away," Gordon said. "As a university, we need to be critically engaged and knowledgeable about our history."
Gordon said there can be an argument for buildings and monuments to be used as a "scarlet letter" to educate people on the university's past and think critically about the future, but people who do not want changes on campus tend to use claims of tradition and history to avoid it, Gordon said.
"They're not able to empathize with black folks who are made uncomfortable by these things because they're in a different position, and they don't think they have a responsibility to empathize with us," Gordon said. "Beyond that, they think that they have particular kinds of rights to a celebration of what they understand to be their positive past, that are as important or more important than the rights of certain groups of people to be comfortable in this setting."
- Robert Lee Moore Hall memorializes an outspoken segregationist who refused to teach black students. Students have called for the building to be renamed in the past.
- Painter Hall is named after UT president Theophilus Painter who denied black students admittance to UT's law school. Painter lost the Supreme Court case Sweatt v. Painter, which outlawed segregation at law schools and undermined the concept of "separate but equal."
- Littlefield Hall and fountain honor George Littlefield, a Mississippi slave owner and a Confederate officer. In a since-deleted tweet, a man who claimed to be a descendent of Littlefield said the building should not be renamed since Littlefield had "1 slave, whom he offered to free."
- James Hogg Auditorium and the Hogg statue memorialize a Texas Governor who signed Jim Crow laws into effect. The Hogg statue was removed from the Main Mall in 2017 along with several other Confederate statues—only to be brought back to campus and relocated a year later.
The final word on renaming buildings is in the hands of the UT Board of Regents, who have not yet made a statement.
Athletes and students called for more diverse statues to be added to campus, as well as more diversity within Texas Athletics, including more representation in the Hall of Fame and a tribute to the first black football player at UT, Julius Whittier. UT's Athletic Director tweeted Friday that he was willing to have conversations with students about the changes they're calling for.
UT's Interim President Jay Hartzell sent a university-wide email Monday saying that he is scheduling conversations with students and athletes to hear their concerns, although he did not mention taking action on any of the specific demands that student-athletes called for.
"During the past few days, I have heard from many students, alumni, faculty and staff asking for meaningful changes to promote diversity and equity and ensure that black students at UT are fully supported," Hartzell said in the email. "Working together, we will create a plan this summer to address these issues, do better for our students and help overcome racism."
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Austin's Delta 8 industry has been turned on its head after Texas health officials clarified that the cannabinoid is on the state list of illegal substances, though it was previously believed to be legal by most retailers, consumers and manufacturers.
House Bill 1325, which was signed in June 2019 by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the Farm Bill, signed into law by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized any hemp product containing less than .3% THC. The same bills were thought to have made Delta 8 legal, though the Texas Department of State Health Services added a notice on its website saying it was still a controlled substance as of Friday, Oct. 15.
Both the federal and state governments keep separate lists on what is considered a controlled substance. Marijuana is considered Schedule I, a category reserved for substances with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," both statewide and federally.
Austin-based CBD retailer Grassroots Harvest CEO Kemal Whyte, like many CBD shop retailers, was blindsided by the announcement. Many small businesses rely on Delta 8 for their sales—Green Herbal Care CBD said about 90% of its sales come from Delta 8—and Whyte said he is frustrated by the inconsistencies in the drug scheduling system.
Since 87% of Texans support the legalization of marijuana, at least for medical use, per a recent poll, Whyte said he wonders who this legislation is for.
"It's gonna have a massive impact on small businesses—there's just no way around it," Whyte said. "The reality is, we don't want to push out anything bad for our customers, we want this to benefit our customers and to help them. If we can make money while doing it, that's the American dream. What are we doing, whose benefit is this for?"
Delta 8 surged in popularity after the perceived legalization—consumers enjoyed its lower psychotropic potency, decreased anxiety while using it and the peace of mind as a legal way to get high. So in order to protect their products and livelihoods, both Grassroots Harvest and Austin-based manufacturer Hometown Heroes are taking legal action.
Whyte said Grassroots Harvest is suing DSHS, saying their action is creating negative effects in the market. Meanwhile, a Hometown Heroes spokesperson said the company is in the process of filing a temporary restraining order that would pause the ban on Delta-8 in the state of Texas.
Threats against Delta 8 are not new—DSHS lost a lawsuit trying to make "smokable hemp products" illegal last year and Texas lawmakers had been considering a bill that would make Delta 8 illegal, though it was dropped after the clarification was made.
Hometown Heroes released a formal statement in response to the DSHS rule.
"I need to be clear—we love Texas, we're just choosing to fight for the will of the people in regards to cannabis in Texas," Hometown Hero CEO Lukas Gilkey said in a statement. "(Texas DSHS) are using backhanded ways to create legislation and go against the will of the people."
Whyte laments the fact that it would be easier legally to "open up a strip club that also sells guns," and said he can't post customer testimonials that mention the benefits of Delta 8 without getting hit with a cease and desist from the Food and Drug Administration. Whyte said he isn't opposed to regulation—far from it—he just wants to see it go through the correct channels.
"The fact that they're stunting our ability to communicate with our clients that want to learn about this, you're preventing us from communicating with them and teaching them, or spreading information that we know," Whyte said. "I think that that in and of itself opens up a lot of questions."
Grassroots Harvest still has Delta 8 products on its shelves for the time being but for how long, Whyte doesn't know.
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Austin Public Health and other clinics around Austin are now providing booster shots for all three vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to fully vaccinated individuals after both Pfizer and J & J were approved by the CDC on Wednesday.
APH and Austin clinics, which were already administering the approved Pfizer booster, will begin distributing shots as soon as Friday.
Those who received the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine more than six months ago are elligble to receive a booster if they are over 65 or if they are over 18 and:
- Live in a long-term care environment
- Have underlying medical conditions
- Work or live in high-risk settings, such as schools, hospitals or correctional facilities
Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a media Q&A Friday that APH is encouraging boosters just as much as they have urged residents to get their first and second doses.
"Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low," Walkes said. "If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community."
Eligible residents are free to choose the same booster as their first doses or "mix and match," per the CDC announcement.
Those looking for another dose can simply bring their vaccination card to APH centers or the dozens of Walgreens and CVS locations in the metro, which began administering doses Friday.
Additional updated guidance from the CDC allows for all eligible individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a "mix-and-match" booster dose. It is advised to remember to bring your CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Card showing the original doses with you when going for booster shots.
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