Coachella School's Arab Mascot Riles Ethnic Group
Coachella Valley High School
You might know the Coachella Valley as the place that hosts the greatest music festival on earth.
But it's also home to thousands of Latino immigrants who come to work nearby fields and seek hospitality and other service industry jobs in the graying, wealthy retirement Mecca of nearby Palm Springs. Coachella Valley High School is more than 90 percent Latino.
And it might have a surprising race problem:
The school's longstanding mascot, a stereotype of an Arab, has caught the eye of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). And it's not happy.
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At high school football games a male student dons an Arab mask and appears with a belly dancer at his side.
The mascot has been a part of the school since the 1920s and is said to reflect both the local date-growing industry and nearby towns such as Arabia, Mecca, and Oasis. This is the desert, after all.
Yet the existence of a bearded, big-nosed Arab sporting a kaffiay, or head covering, is pretty surprising in this day and age. You can translate such cartoonish stereotyping to other ethnic groups and just imagine the reaction.
Coachella Valley High School
Which is why the ADC wrote a letter to the Coachella Valley Unified School District asking it to put the mascot out to pasture. The group calls the mascot an example of "gross stereotyping:"
ADC is appalled at the use of a caricature depicted to be an "Arab" as the official mascot of the high school. The image of the Coachella Valley High School mascot depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kffiay, or traditional Arab head covering. It has come to our attention that during sporting events, and school functions, a student dressed as this figure, makes an appearance.
The organization has also started a petition against the mascot.
We reached out to superintendent Darryl Adams but had yet to hear back. He told the Los Angeles Times that this was the first time he's heard a complaint about the mascot in 25 years at the district.
He said "the depiction of the mascot," e.g. the artwork, might be the issue.
We asked Warren David, president of the Washington, D.C.-based ADC if different artwork might settle the controversy. Here's what he said:
It depends on what that art work depicts. Right now we see a snarling, turban-wearing, bearded, hook-nosed, Arab man which is a denigrating image and a poor representation of Arabs and Arab Americans.
The school board was scheduled to take up the matter Nov. 21.
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