“Come and Take It” the flag dared. And they did. They came and took it. So yet another bit of our history is gone. Soon there will be nothing left of our past but empty pedestals and stored plaques.
A quick bit of background: On Oct. 2, 1835, as Texians were mumbling about independence from Mexico, 100 Mexican dragoons were sent to Gonzales to retrieve a small cannon loaned to the locals to help protect them from frequent Comanche raids. The Mexicans were met by about 140 Texians who flew a flag created by Sarah Seely DeWitt and her daughter, Evaline, from Noami DeWitt's wedding dress. It was white with a black lone star at the top above the picture of a cannon. Below that were the words: “Come and Take It.”
A fight broke out. The Texians fired the cannon, loaded with scrap iron. The Battle of Gonzales was more of a skirmish -- the Mexicans left with one casualty – but it was the Texas Lexington. Today a replica of that flag hangs in the state capitol in Austin, but can be seen on coffee cups, shirts, neckties, underwear, license plates, album covers, food trucks, murals, hats and fraternity walls. Texas Tacky lives!
For six years The University of Texas at San Antonio, or UTSA, traditionally unfurled an enormous "Come and Take It" flag across the student section before the start of the fourth quarter of home football games for the Roadrunners, accompanied by the firing of a cannon. The last time this was used was during the 2019 season. It was not used during the entire 2020 season because of COVID-19.
But UTSA’s president, Taylor Eighmy, has now sent out an email to faculty, staff, students and alumni stating that the flag will no longer be used at football games. “Further, we will identify the use of this phrase in our digital environment, licensed merchandise, and in our buildings and playing fields, and will systematically and appropriately remove it.”
President Eighmy stated: “(T)here is no benefit to becoming embroiled in a divisive issue.” There had been much debate on the UTSA campus about the slogan. A former UTSA professor created a petition to urge the university to end the use of the slogan because it is "offensive" and "anti-Mexican." Another petition is going around demanding that UTSA keep the slogan. UTSA has an enrollment of 34,742, of which more than half (55.8 percent) are Hispanic.
Meanwhile, at UT-Austin, the Texas chapter of the NAACP, along with the civil rights organization’s UT’s Austin chapter and a group of anonymous students, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging the school is creating a “hostile environment” for Black students by continuing to play “The Eyes of Texas” at university events. This follows earlier protests by Black students about use of the song. After furious outcries by heavy donors to keep “The Eyes,” UT kept it.
Private companies are dropping old names. In March, The Dallas Morning News changed its corporate name from the A.H. Belo Corporation to the DallasNews Corporation. It seems that A.H. Belo, who founded the newspaper in 1885, had been a Confederate colonel. The Dixie Chicks are now just the Chicks. (Not to get sidetracked, but that group almost self-destructed. At a 2003 performance in London, just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Natalie Maines of the Dallas–based band, told the audience, “We’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”
The criticism led to a backlash from country listeners, who were mostly right-wing and supported the war. The Dixie Chicks were blacklisted by thousands of country radio stations and the band members received death threats.) The Alabama Band is still the Alabama Band, but the State of Mississippi dropped the Stars and Bars from its flag and the state capitol of South Carolina no longer sports a Confederate flag on its grounds. We all know how Richmond, Va. carted off its huge statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Sports teams are having problems not offending anyone. The Washington Redskins are now the Washington Football Team, but are down to about eight possibilities for a new nickname. The Cleveland Indians will be called the Cleveland Guardians. North Dakota University were the Fighting Sioux. Now they are the Fighting Hawks. The Florida Seminoles are safe because the Florida Seminole Tribe Chapter supported the university's use of the mascot.
Here in Houston, in 2006 Houston received a major league soccer franchise. The original title of our new soccer team was to be Houston 1836 (soccer teams the world over have odd names), that being the year Houston was founded. However, 1836 was also the year Texas fought for and gained independence from Mexico, prompting some Houston Hispanics to object.
So Houston 1836 was changed to the Dynamo (singular, not Dynamos) which is about as meaningless a name as the Washington Football Team. Nevertheless, team president Oliver Luck said, "Dynamo is a word to describe someone who never fatigues, never gives up. The new name is symbolic of Houston as an energetic, hard-working, risk-taking kind of town." Coincidentally, the name change was announced 170 years to the day that the Alamo fell at the hands of the Mexican Army.
As for the Alamo itself, a major do-over is coming, complete with squabbles (which lets headline writers refer to “The Second Battle of the Alamo” ad nauseam. And a new book is out, “Forget the Alamo,” which includes this observation: “Bowie was a murderer, slaver and con man. Travis was a pompous racist agitator and syphilitic leach; and Crockett was a self-promoting old fool who was a captive to his own myth. They can no longer be the holy trinity of Texas, nor can the Alamo be the Shrine of Texas Liberty.” Maybe UTSA should just put a sign over their cafeteria: “Come and get it.”
Ashby is not changing at firstname.lastname@example.org