1. A national anti-discrimination group is “appalled” that the mascot of Coachella Valley High School in California is a snarling, gold-toothed, heavy-bearded, hooked-nosed, headscarf-wearing Arab, The Desert Sun reported.
2. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to the school calling that the Arab mascot a “harmful form of ethnic stereotyping which should be eliminated.” The ADC also started an online petition to get rid of the mascot.
3. The school football team’s nickname is also the Arabs and belly dancers join their cheerleaders during the halftime shows.
4. The school also has murals like this one, of an Arab couple flying on a book. On the right, a logo for the school’s library emerges like a genie from a lamp. The ADC called these “examples of gross stereotyping” and asked them to be removed.
7. The Arab mascot was chosen in the 1920s as a tribute to the East Valley’s reliance on date farming; dates are traditionally Middle-Eastern crops.
Over the years, the mascot transformed from a turbaned horseman with a lance, to a man wearing a fez and carrying a sword, to today’s “angry Arab” with a heavy beard and a gold tooth. The “angry Arab,” designed in the 1950s, was meant to reflect the “fearsome front” for the football team, one of the directors of the alumni association told The Desert Sun.
8. Although the ADC acknowledged the “context” in which the nickname was originally selected, the letter said that “in the 21st Century, such justifications for these actions are no longer tolerable.”
Art Montoya, 74, a director of the alumni association, told The Desert Sun that the context of the design had faded and understood how the “cartoon character” could be seen as offensive today.
He said, “Times are changing, and we have to understand that. I think they need to look at it again. If they want to keep that Arab name, they need to make it a bit more acceptable. Only, I don’t know what that would look like. I don’t know how you could make a face that would be acceptable to everyone in the world.”
9. The mascot issue will be discussed at the school board meeting on Nov. 21, according to Superintendent Darryl Adams.
10. Other schools in the district also have ethnic team names, like Indio High’s “Rajah” — a turbaned Indian prince — and the Palm Desert High Aztecs.
11. At the annual Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, girls dress as Arabian princesses and participate in the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant.
According the pageant’s application form, “One queen and two princesses make up the ‘court’ for the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival. The highly visible court acts as the goodwill ambassadors for this event and makes many public promotional appearances during the year-long reign. Queen Scheherazade and her court must be poised, congenial, relaxed with the public, and eager to represent the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival and Riverside County.”
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