California High School sports teams’ 90-year old Arab mascot is under fire from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington.
USA Today Thermal, CA. — A high school here is being pressured to abandon its team name and longstanding mascot — a sneering, hook-nosed Arab, sometimes with a single tooth — because of accusations that it is derogatory.
The Coachella Valley Unified School District received a letter this week from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington chastising education officials for allowing “gross stereotyping” at Coachella Valley High School in school murals, football halftime shows and the mascot in general.
“ADC is appalled at the use of a caricature depicted to be an ‘Arab’ as the official mascot of the high school,” the letter states. “The image of the Coachella Valley High School mascot depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard and wearing keffiyeh or traditional Arab head covering.”
“The ‘Arab’ mascot image is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping which should be eliminated,” Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the anti-discrimination committee, wrote in the letter. “By allowing continued use of the term and imagery, you are commending and enforcing the negative stereotypes of an entire ethnic group, millions of whom are citizens of this nation.”
The committee, founded in 1980, also has launched an online petition demanding the mascot be changed. About 500 people had signed as of Thursday evening.
According to the Coachella Valley High School Alumni Association, the mascot was chosen in the 1920s to acknowledge the importance of date farming, a traditionally Middle Eastern crop, in the east valley. The school with an enrollment of almost 3,000 was opened in 1910.
Another link between the Middle East and the east valley can be seen in the name of the city of Mecca, about 6 miles southeast of Thermal, according to the association.
The current mascot is based on an “angry Arab” design unveiled in the 1950s. The scowling face was meant to be a fearsome front for the football team, said Art Montoya, 74, one of the directors of the alumni association.