REFUGIO, Texas — The board of trustees of an independent school district in Texas on Tuesday voted unanimously to discontinue the use of a fight song that some students and alumni have called racist.
The song, “Dixie,” was written for a blackface minstrel show in the 1850s and was the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy. The Refugio Independent School District — home to about 750 students, according to the district’s Facebook page — adopted “Dixie” as its fight song in the early 1960s.
Opposition to “Dixie” has swelled for years among students and alumni, culminating in the creation of a Facebook group called Bobcats for a Better Anthem in October. Members of that group asked the board to put an issue to a vote, and the trustees voted 5-2 to keep the song in late November.
But complaints persisted. Several people attended December’s board meeting to criticize the use of “Dixie,” though nothing related to the song was on the agenda.
About 50 people attended Tuesday’s board meeting. More than a dozen people addressed the board during public comment; the majority expressed vehement disapproval of the song.
They included Refugio Mayor Wanda Dukes, who decried the history of racism in the city, including a slave auction that she said took place in the high school auditorium. Another dissenter was district high school senior Levander LaFond, who said it was a “logical fallacy” to keep the song simply to maintain tradition.
“Your community consists of minorities,” LaFond said. “The school board is supposed to represent the community’s diverse beliefs and values, not neglect them. How many people need to tell you this song hurts and kills them, whether it’s emotionally or mentally?”
One of the few defenders of the song was former music teacher Anita Barber, who rattled off a list of more than 100 people who supported keeping “Dixie.”
Before the trustees voted, board member T. Wayne Price, who had voted to keep “Dixie” in November, said he stood by his opinion that the song is not racist and that he disagreed with the “progressive agenda” against it.
“But to attempt to be biblical and therefore as objective as possible, it is not an issue for which I would die,” he said. “So, with God’s enabling, I will turn the other cheek and attempt to live in peace in order to have harmony in Refugio.”
With tears in her eyes, Kelley Walker, the board’s vice president, recounted that residents have called her racist on social media after her vote in favor of “Dixie” in November.
Board Secretary Jorge Jaso, who said he has wanted to discontinue “Dixie” for three years, said that though some people perceived the board as racist after November’s vote, “I fully don’t think that they realized the magnitude of their vote. … We don’t have a racist board.
“I’m hoping and praying that tonight, we start a new age of understanding,” he added. “We can’t change history, but we can move forward and make new traditions.”
Board member Lorraine Garza made the motion to discontinue “Dixie,” and Jaso seconded the motion. It passed unanimously, and the room erupted in applause.