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Controversial 'Arab' mascot subject of school meeting tonight

November 15, 2013|By Samantha Schaefer
  • In this Nov. 10, 2005, photo, Coachella Valley High School's mascot, the "Arab," dances during a pep rally at the school in Thermal, Calif.
In this Nov. 10, 2005, photo, Coachella Valley High School's mascot,… (Marilyn Chung / Associated…)

The Coachella Valley school community is expected to weigh in on a controversial mascot that has drawn criticism from a national civil rights group.

The special meeting was scheduled to address the "Arab," the longtime mascot at Coachella Valley High School that has been criticized by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee for perpetuating stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans.

The mascot is in the likeness of a man with a large nose and heavy beard wearing a kaffiyeh, a traditional Arab head covering. The schools sports teams are known as the Arabs.

Friday's meeting is scheduled to let those in the community give input to board members before a regular meeting Nov. 21. No decision on the fate of the mascot is expected Friday.

The Arab was adopted as the school's mascot to recognize the importance of the date-growing industry in the area, and "fit in perfectly with the neighboring towns of Mecca, Oasis, Arabia and Thermal," according to a description from the school's alumni association.

The mascot was originally drawn riding a horse with a lance and a turban, and has evolved throughout the years, according to the association.

In a letter to the Desert Sun, district Supt. Darryl Adams wrote that the mascot, chosen in the 1920s, was “never meant to dishonor or ridicule anyone” and was designed to show respect for Middle Eastern cultures and crops grown in the Coachella Valley. However, he added, it is time to revisit the concept if the mascot is marginalizing a community.

“Times change, people change, and, subsequently, even symbols and words embraced for decades may need to be considered for change as well,” Adams wrote.

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samantha.schaefer@latimes.com

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