Ruben Navarrette: The real Texas Rangers have shown they have no honor. Remove name from baseball.
From the commentary: The Uvalde massacre was a test for the Texas Rangers, and they failed miserably.
SAN DIEGO — Columnists are often wrong but never in doubt. And we almost never apologize.
It's my turn. I got something wrong. It wasn't a fact, quote or statistic. It was an error in judgment. Every columnist should be able to tell a good topic from a bad one. While it's OK to swing and miss now and then, you shouldn't let a good pitch get past you.
Several months ago, I was pitched a topic. I passed. I thought the subject was trivial. I was wrong.
The pitch came from my compadre Enrique. He loves baseball. What he doesn't like is injustice. He won't flinch in taking on a newspaper, cable network or politician who mistreats Mexicans or Mexican Americans.
There is plenty of mistreatment going on in the Lone Star State, where few institutions are more revered than the law enforcement agency known as the Texas Rangers.
Founded in 1835, the Rangers are the stuff of legend. Texas Ranger Frank Hamer led the posse that, in May 1934, killed bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow — a pair of outlaws better known by their first names. Hollywood told that story again and again, but Tinseltown's love affair with the Texas Rangers was just getting started. Later, there was the Lone Ranger. Then came "Lonesome Dove" - the miniseries adaptation of the bestseller by Larry McMurtry — which told the story of retired Texas Rangers Woodrow F. Call and Augustus "Gus" McCrae. And finally there was "Walker, Texas Ranger" starring Chuck Norris.
Growing up the son of a cop in Central California, I learned early on from my dad the saying "One riot, one Ranger."
But what is not often talked about — with the exception of the occasional book or documentary — is the dark side of the Rangers' history. From 1848 to 1948, the Rangers terrorized, beat and killed what is estimated to be thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. In a 60-year period, from 1848 to 1928, more than 500 people were lynched by the Rangers.
The Mexican Revolution, from 1910 to 1920, produced tension between Texas and Mexico. According to historians in the Southwest, the Rangers — in a reign of terror known as "La Matanza" — murdered thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. In the January 1918 assault on the West Texas town of Porvenir, Rangers killed 15 unarmed Mexican American boys and men. Then they burned the town to the ground, forcing the remaining residents — mostly women and children — to flee.
For their sins, the Rangers came to be known — among Mexicans — as "los diablos tejanos" ("the Texan devils").
And, oh yeah: Today the Rangers have a Major League Baseball team named after them.
To add irony to injury, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, nearly 30% of professional baseball players are Latino.
It's more than my friend could stomach.
"The Rangers were vigilantes who used to pursue Mexicans and Mexican Americans and lynch them," he said. "They have a horrible history."
Since 2000, this activist has been on a crusade to change the name of the Texas Rangers baseball team to something less offensive. If the team formerly known as the Cleveland Indians can now be referred to as the Cleveland Guardians, surely anything is possible.
Still, when Enrique tried to persuade me to write a column on the subject, I passed. Now I've come around. I owe my compadre an apology. What changed my mind?
It was the tragic events in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24. That's when a gunman infiltrated Robb Elementary School and killed 19 students and two teachers. Ninety-one officers of the Texas Department of Public Safety — including Texas Rangers — descended on the school and did, well, not much of anything for more than an hour. The assailant was eventually killed by a tactical unit led by the U.S. Border Patrol and not by the Rangers.
Families of the Uvalde victims have filed a $27 billion lawsuit against local and state police, the city and the school district.
The 21st-century version of the legendary lawmen aren't fearless. They're feckless. The Uvalde massacre was a test for the Texas Rangers, and they failed miserably.
Folklore gets you only so far. We name sports teams after institutions to honor them. The Texas Rangers have no honor.
Major League Baseball can do better. A name change is warranted.
Not because of history — because of competency. On that score, on the day when it counted most, the Texas Rangers struck out.
This commentary is Ruben Navarrette's opinion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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