In the California desert, where farmers grow dates and a town is named “Mecca,” Coachella Valley High School named its teams the “Arabs” back in the 1920s. The mascot was a turban-wearing horseman carrying a lance. Later, the mascot lost his horse, but gained a scimitar and a fez. Seeking a tougher image, the “angry Arab” was adopted in the 1950s.
The sneering, hook-nosed “Arab” may be history, reports the Desert Sun. An Arab-American group has protested“orientalist stereotyping” and circulated an online petition demanding the “offensive” mascot be changed.
However, the group has offered to let the school keep the “Arab” name, reports the Sun. “What we are looking for here is a compromise that removes the stereotyping of Arabs and positively portrays our heritage and our contributions,” said Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
One of the Arabs’ chief rivals are the Indio High’s “Rajahs,” represented by a turban-wearing Indian prince, notes the Desert Sun. Other local teams are the Palm Desert High “Aztecs” and the Palm Springs High “Indians.” The Indians’ mascot was designed with help from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
Perhaps the CVHS Arabs can bring back the dashing horseman. It’s a stereotype — all mascots are stereotypes — but a positive one.
The mascot joins belly dancers at halftime shows, Ayoub’s letter complains. Will this survive the compromise?