Enough with good intentions

Analisa Sulaica, Social Media Editor

On Aug. 9, we were notified by President Taylor Eighmy that the usage of the “Come and Take It” flag imagery by UTSA Athletics was under careful review. A petition started by UTSA professor Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark put pressure on the University to address the usage of the flag’s imagery. Dr. Clark’s petition directly acknowledges the flag’s “anti-Mexican and pro-slavery sentiments.” However, this vital information on the flag’s background and history was completely absent from communications issued by UTSA.

This is reminiscent of how UTSA handled student challenges to Fiesta at UTSA, now Dia en la Sombrilla. In 2019, the Mexican American Studies Student Organization (MASSO) was vocal about the problematic roots of Fiesta and its implications. At the time, the organization was permitted to table at Fiesta festivities at UTSA, but aside from changing the event’s name to “Dia en la Sombrilla,” little else was done to address the history behind the Texas Revolution and its relevance to Fiesta.

The Texas Revolution was about enslaving people. If you attended public school in Texas, or potentially anywhere in the South, you probably weren’t taught that. Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, and the availability of land quickly attracted many white-American settlers. Living on Mexican territory, settlers were obligated to adhere to Mexican laws. While there was pushback, it came to its precipice in 1829, when Mexico abolished slavery. Through a loophole, settlers were able to continue to enslave people — instead opting to call it life-long, multi-generational “indentured servitude”— but grew tired of this name change quickly. Like the South’s pro-slavery agenda during the Civil War, the Texas Revolution has been painted as a matter of personal freedoms and liberties. 

Following the revolution, persons of Mexican and Indigenous descent became targets for white-settlers’ hostility and attacks. Many had their land taken from them by white settlers and were forced into a life of share-cropping on land that once was theirs. Fiesta is a celebration of this white domination and displacement, and people of Mexican descent were excluded from the festivities for many years.

The emails, issued on August 9 and Sept. 7 respectively, do not address any of this history. With the very brief historical review I have provided, I would argue it’s easy to see why so many alt-right, conservative political groups have adopted the “Come and Take It” flag. Yet, the emails we received only discussed the university’s good intentions in adopting the imagery and incorporating it into athletic traditions. 

The university cannot continue to fall back on “good intentions” at times like this: doing so is an active choice to remain complacent on the issues of racism, discrimination and inequity rooted in our history and society. Again, students are tasked with the job of educating their peers on why this issue matters — not UTSA. Again, students have to hear the irritated chatter of their peers as they drone on about how tired they are of “cancel culture” and “people being sensitive” because of the university’s decision to omit history in an effort to absolve themselves of the issue. 

This pattern has to stop. We must face history as it occurred, even the ugliest parts, because it continues to affect us today. I hope that moving forward, an effort will be made by the university itself, to educate the student body on the history and implications of the matters I have discussed here, especially as so many people in San Antonio and at UTSA have so much knowledge and passion for this topic.

This is an opportunity to strengthen our community through discourse and set ourselves apart as an institution that truly understands the importance of justice and the multi-generational effects historical events like this have on our communities. Upholding a narrative steeped in whiteness has no place as a priority for the university, especially not at the expense of Black, Indigenous and students of color.