Much has been made of the Washington Redskins, with a national campaign dedicated to getting the NFL franchise to change the nickname and the team itself leaning on high schools that share the mascot as support. Yet, as offensive as the Redskins name may be, there's a prep mascot in California that is just as offensive, if not more so.
The sports teams at Coachella Valley High School (Thermal, Calif.) compete as the Arabs. If that seems culturally offensive to you, that's because it is. The school's mascot is a cartoonish caricature of the most offensive traits prescribed to Muslims. In essence, it's a more offensive version of what the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo is to Native Americans.
To make matters even more insensitive, the school has a female student dressed as a belly dancer perform for the Arab mascot at halftime.
Here's how the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) describes the Coachella Valley mascot in a letter obtained by Southern California news network KESQ, and quite accurately at that.
"The image of the Coachella Valley High School mascot depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kaffiay, 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 ADC says it's just too much. "Bombers, billionaires or belly dancers," said [ADC director of legal and policy affairs Abed] Ayoub. "There's a lot more to Arabs, Arab Americans and the Arab culture and heritage then what's being depicted by this high school."
The amazing thing about Coachella Valley's mascot isn't just how obviously offensive it is, it's also how long the school has used the insulting mascot. According to CNN, the school began calling its teams the Arabs in the 1930s, and a series of pictures dug up by Deadspin showcases how the school's mascot has adapted a successively more offensive image over the years.
The ADC is calling for Coachella Valley to change its mascot immediately. So far, the school is resisting, though the justifications cited by Rich Ramirez, president of the Coachella Valley High School Alumni Association in an interview with CNN may not be particularly persuasive to Ayoub and his colleagues.
"We're proud of Arab tradition and Arab culture," Ramirez said.
"The comment they make is that it has a hook-nose Arab. We have been using the snarling face to instill fear in the opponent. That's what a mascot does. But we can put a handsome dude in the mascot.
"Work with us. Don't come off like we're something terrible. We're not terrible. When 9/11 came, we got terrible, terrible threats to change the name of our mascot. We said no. People love the name; they love the culture; they love our date festival," he added.
- - - - - - -