Yesterday, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) contacted the Coachella Valley Unified School District about Coacheella Valley High’s “angry Arab” mascot.
“ADC is appalled at the use of a caricature depicted to be an ‘Arab’ as the official mascot of the high school,” wrote Abed Ayoub, the ADC’s director of legal and policy affairs.
“The image of the Coachella Valley High School mascot depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard and wearing a kaffiay, (often spelled in English as keffiyeh) or traditional Arab head covering. The ‘Arab’ mascot image is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping which should be eliminated.”
“By allowing continued use of the term and imagery,” he continued, “you are commending and enforcing the negative stereotypes of an entire ethnic group, millions of whom are citizens of this nation.”
The district’s superintendent, Darryl Adams, admitted that the “angry Arab” mascot had given him pause. “When I first came here, I raised an eyebrow,” he said. “Being an African-American from the Deep South, I’m sensitive to stereotyping. But in this context when this was created, it was not meant in that way. It was totally an admiration of the connection with the Middle East.”
The mascot was originally intended to honor the date-farmers of the Coachella Valley, as dates are a crop traditionally associated with the Middle East. The “anger” espoused by the mascot was merely meant to reflect the toughness of the football team.
School officials point to the “positive” depictions of the mascot on the campus, which include a mural in which an Arabian couple rides a book as if it were a magic carpet and the belly-dancers who perform during the football team’s halftime shows.
One alumnus, David Hinkle, told USA Today that attempts to change the mascot amount to “political correctness run amok.”
Others are not so sure. Art Montoya acknowledged that “times are changing, and we have to understand that. 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.”
Watch the KTLA report on the mascot controversy below.