- (Photo: Screen Grab KERO)
Coachella Valley High School in Riverside County is catching heat for using an "Arab" for its mascot and is fielding complaints that the school should change the mascot due to its offensive nature.
While the school has had the same mascot for more than 80 years, it is now being focused on as Muslims gain wider acceptance in American society.
During the school's sporting events the black-bearded mascot topped with a headscarf is surrounded by belly dancers as they urge fans to cheer on the team. But the school recently received a letter from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), who insists the mascot portrays 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," Abed Ayoub with ADC said in a statement.
Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams is taking the charge very seriously.
"We're very sensitive to that and how we're going to work to make sure, maybe sometimes you should have some consultations when we're working with other groups and cultures," Adams told KESQ.
However, locals in the community insist the longstanding mascot is not used to make fun or demean a particular culture but to pay homage to Middle East culture that has taken root in the Southern California area.
The mascot has been around since the 1920s and was originally chosen due to the area's use of date farming, which is traditionally regarded as a Middle Eastern crop. The close town of Mecca also derives its name from the famous Middle Eastern city.
"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," Rich Ramirez with the CVHS Alumni Association told CBS.
The Coachella Valley Unified School District will discuss the future of the mascot at a school board meeting Nov. 21.