It’s certainly true that the Washington *spit* Redskins and Cleveland Indians badly need to change their names. But let’s not sleep on one of the most offensive names in all of sports, the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers have always been widely revered in my native state. We learned they were fearless guardians of civilization whose exploits went back to when settlers were fighting Comanche warriors.
They were immortalized in Larry McMurtry’s novel, “Lonesome Dove.” There was a TV series that starred Chuck Norris. The Major League Baseball team in Arlington is called the Texas Rangers.
The legends omit a lot of the reality. A magisterial new book by journalist Doug J. Swanson, “Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers,” lays bare their long record of savagery, lawlessness and racism.
“They burned peasant villages and slaughtered innocents,” he writes. “They committed war crimes. Their murders of Mexicans and Mexican Americans made them as feared on the border as the Ku Klux Klan in the South.”
A century ago, during the fighting that took place along the border during the Mexican Revolution, blood flowed like the Rio Grande. “The terms ‘death squads’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ would not enter common usage for another 60 years or so,” Swanson notes, “but that was what the Rangers were and what they did.”
Later, they were a bulwark acting to hold back racial equality. When black students tried to enroll in the segregated Texarkana Junior College in 1956, angry white people barred the way, hurling gravel and racial slurs and forcing the students to leave. The Rangers stood idly by.
The message to racists, said a member of the Texas Civil Rights Advisory Committee, was plain: “If you will only assemble a mob, or threaten to do so, the power of the Texas Rangers will be on your side to deny civil rights to school children.”
When farmworkers, most of them Mexican American, went on strike in 1966, some were beaten and arrested by Rangers. An old saying is, “Every Texas Ranger has Mexican blood. It’s on his boots.”
The Texas Rangers is a brutal institution. Having a baseball team named for them is an open endorsement of white supremacy, which has long been at the heart of Texas history. It’s time to change this. Yesterday.