California High School Under Fire Over 'Arab' Mascot

Arab-American rights group says Coachella Valley High School's mascot is an offensive caricature, portraying Arabs with a large nose, beard and head-covering.

Reuters
Reuters
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Reuters
Reuters

A California high school's decades-old use of an Arab mascot to promote its sports teams has drawn the ire of an Arab-American rights group that says the mascot is an offensive caricature, portraying Arabs with a large nose, beard and head-covering.

Coachella Valley High School sports teams are dubbed the "Arabs," which the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee complained in a letter to the school this month plays on harmful stereotypes.

The group, whose leaders say they are not aware of another U.S. school with the nickname Arab, also cited as offensive the school's logo of an Arab, which it said was displayed in the middle of the basketball court and elsewhere at the school.

"It's a very stereotypical logo of Arabs, it has the angry-looking Arab with the hook nose and the beard," said Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the group.

The controversy over the Arab mascot comes as the use of ethnic team names and mascots has gained new prominence with a campaign this year to pressure the National Football League's Washington Redskins to change their name. American Indians and others have long pilloried the Redskins moniker as racist.

At the Coachella school's sporting events, a person in an oversized mask dances and entertains the crowd as the mascot.

In its letter, the Anti-Discrimination Committee described YouTube videos of half-time shows at Coachella Valley High School sporting events that show the Arab mascot making an appearance while "a female dressed as a belly dancer entertains him."

A Web search by Reuters found a video of the school's mascot dancing with a belly dancer on a basketball court, in the middle of a circle of cheerleaders.

Ayoub said he understands that the school, which opened in 1910 and is located in the arid Coachella Valley town of Thermal, 125 miles southeast of Los Angeles, originally used the Arab mascot as a nod to the region's date-growing industry, because the date palm is associated with the Middle East.

"There is an appropriate way to recognize the ties with Arabs and the Arab community, but this was not it," Ayoub said.

Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams is due to discuss the issue with the local school board later this month, Adams's interim assistant, Marita Rango, said. Adams was not immediately available to comment.

"He just hopes to resolve the issue there with the mascot," Rango said. "He is working with (the ADC)."

Ayoub, whose group was alerted to the existence of the mascot a few weeks ago by a member in New York, said Adams has been receptive to his group's concerns.

The Coachella Valley High School mascot. Photo: screenshot.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel

ISRAEL-VOTE

Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism