California High School Under Attack For Its "Arab" MascotS

Many high schools have generic mascots like the Wildcats or Bulldogs, but how many can say they're the "Arabs?" Coachella Valley High School can.

The sports teams at Coachella Valley High School are the Arabs. The students aren't all actually Arabs; it's just their name. This is not an all-Arab school. The cheerleaders have "ARABS" across the front of their uniforms. The mascot is a hook-nosed, sinister-looking Arab wearing a keffiyeh and an outfit probably rejected by Aladdin. A belly dancer performs at halftime. The kids chant, "Let's go Arabs, let's go!" (At least they're not pronouncing it "Ay-rabs.") It is fucking surreal.

Arabs don't like it. The school's being attacked by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, which sent a letter to the school urging it to change its team name and get rid of the mascot, calling it "a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping which should be eliminated."

District superintendent Darryl Adams says he is taking the complaint seriously. "We're very sensitive to that and how we're going to work to make sure, maybe sometimes you should have some consultations when we're working with other groups and cultures," he told KESQ.

According to the now-deleted page on the alumni site—you can still see a cache of it here—CVHS has been using the name since the 1920s. The images of the logos are gone, but an article on KCET by Sarah McCormick Seekatz, which gives extensive background as to the influence of Middle Eastern culture on Southern California, helpfully compiled the history of the noble logo. (The one on the far left is a mural at the school.) Originally, the Arab was riding a horse and carrying a spear. Somehow, over time, the logo became more offensive.

California High School Under Attack For Its "Arab" Mascot

KESQ put together a report, finding alumni who believe it is honoring Arabs.

CVHS went with the image of an Arab because date farming played a big role in that area. They see it as paying respect to Middle Eastern culture. It is not. Maybe—maybe—the "Arabs" name could be debated, but what culture wants to be portrayed as a hook-nosed movie villain and reduced to the basest and cheapest stereotypes? What part of the snarling sheik is supposed to not reinforce the tropes used in almost every film depicting Middle Easterners? You can't portray us as smelly terrorists all the time, then claim you're honoring us by perpetuating the smelly terrorist look.

[CNN | KESQ]