A California high school mascot has been changed due to complaints from both the community and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), CNN.com reports. For years, Coachella High School’s team mascot, name, imagery, and other school traditions have been deemed offensive by local Arab-Americans. After 10 months of collaboration with the ADC, school officials announced on September 12th that they had come to a compromise. But what is it about the face of the public high school that has not only the community, but the nation, shaking their heads?
"The mascot is basically an angry ‘Arab’ head — hooknose, long beard, headscarf and all," said Abed Ayoub, ADC’s legal and policy director. Ayoub claimed that the school’s representations of Arab culture — including its use of harem girls in marching band parades and a belly dancer halftime show— were classic examples of Orientalism, a depiction of Western, Middle Eastern, North African and Asian societies as inferior.
The new name, the “Mighty Arabs”, has been paired with a more clean-cut mascot - described by the ADC as “a stoic, strong-jawed man with a neatly trimmed beard” — and was chosen with input from members of the Arab-American community. But despite approval from the ADC, there has proven to be room for disagreement among Coachella High School’s students.
“It’s more modern, of course, but the old one means so much to the people that it’s different and they don’t like it,” said student Arely Ayala.
Despite opposition, the school district stands by its decision to make a change. Darryl Adams, the superintendent, stated that educators need to “forever keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to the feelings of others even when no disrespect or harm is intended.”
“The realization that the Coachella Valley High School mascot and name was offensive to fellow citizens or any group is one that we cannot ignore,” Adams said. “As educators we are beacons of hope and light in helping students understand their place in society and that place does not include stereotypical images that offend.”ADC President Samer Khalaf agrees. “It is our hope that similar matters, including that involving the Washington [Redskins] professional football team, can reach a resolution that respects the culture and history of specific communities.”