Coachella Valley High School's Arab mascot draws criticism


Coachella Valley High School has had the same mascot for more than eight decades. At football games, spectators will find a snarling, black-bearded mascot wearing a headscarf urging fans to root for the team. Belly dancers also perform at halftime.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has sent a letter to the school district, saying the mascot enforces negative stereotypes of Arabs and Arab-Americans.

"Bombers, billionaires or belly dancers. There's a lot more to Arab-Americans and the Arab culture and the Arab heritage than what's being depicted by this high school," said Abed Ayoub with ADC.

One school alumni, however, believes the mascot honors the Arab culture's role in the area.

"It wasn't to discriminate. It was to say 'Hey, thank you Middle East, Iraq, Algeria,' all those areas that donated, well didn't donate, we bought it from them, the date shoots and now the date industry," said Rich Ramirez with the CVHS Alumni Association.

The Arab mascot has been around since the 1920s and was chosen to recognize the area's reliance on date farming, traditionally a Middle Eastern crop. The nearby community of Mecca also pays homage to the Middle East.

The mascot has evolved from a turban-wearing horseman carrying a lance to a standing figure with a scowl and a headscarf.

The district and ADC are in discussions. The Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams says the future of the Arab mascot will be discussed at a school board meeting Nov. 21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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