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.
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.
The school football team's nickname is also the Arabs and belly dancers join their cheerleaders during the halftime shows.
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.
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.
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."
The mascot issue will be discussed at the school board meeting on Nov. 21, according to Superintendent Darryl Adams.
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.
At the annual Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, girls dress as Arabian princesses and participate in the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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