California high school asked to abandon Arab mascot
Thermal, Calif. • Go to a high school football game in the Southern California desert and you may be surprised to see belly dancers performing at halftime.
Fans who come out to root for the prep team known as the Coachella Valley Arabs will find a snarling, black-bearded mascot wearing a headscarf egging them on.
The mascot in this town east of Palm Springs that has existed for nearly a century has now drawn the ire of an anti-discrimination group that deems the caricature offensive and stereotypical.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee recently sent a letter to officials at the Coachella Valley Unified School District asking them to get rid of the mascot, according to the Desert Sun.
"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, " Abed Ayoub, the group's director of legal and policy affairs, wrote in the letter.
The request comes amid mounting pressure for the NFL's Washington franchise to change its mascot name from the Redskins because it's offensive to American Indians.
The Arab mascot has been around since the 1920s and was chosen to recognize the area's reliance on date farming, traditionally a Middle Eastern crop. The nearby community of Mecca also pays homage to the Middle East.
The mascot has evolved from a turban-wearing horseman carrying a lance to a standing figure with a scowl and a headscarf.
The topic will be discussed at a Nov. 21 school board meeting.