California high school pressured to change 'Arab' mascot

Thursday November 7th, 2013

"The Arab" mascot is a sign of respect to Arab nations, said the high school's president of the alumni association. (CNN) "The Arab" mascot is a sign of respect to Arab nations, said the high school's president of the alumni association. (CNN)

An Arab-American civil rights group is asking a Southern California high school to change its mascot -- "the Arab" -- citing "gross stereotyping," and the two sides will hold a meeting on Nov. 21 to discuss the matter.

According to a report Thursday from CNN, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said it was "shocked to learn that the Arab" was the official mascot of Coachella Valley High School, a tradition that began in the 1930s, according to the report.

In a letter addressed to the school in November, the committee said the use of "the Arab" as a mascot is bad for Arabs and Arab Americans:

"Continued use of the 'Arab' mascot perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans. Coachella Valley High School's gross stereotyping cannot be tolerated."

According to the letter, a "female dressed as (a) belly dancer entertains the mascot by dancing for him" during halftime at the school's games.

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The district's Superintendent, Daryl Adams, said in response to the letter that it's important to consider the opinions of "other groups and cultures."

"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."

Rich Ramirez, president of the high school's alumni association, took a slightly different stance on "the Arab" mascot:

"It wasn't to discriminate, it was to say 'hey, thank you Middle East, Iraq, Algeria. This what we like to do. And we're proud of being Arabs."

These discussions come at a time when the NFL's Washington Redskins face mounting pressure to change their moniker for similar reasons.

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