Coachella Valley High School (CVHS) has a new “Arab” mascot ,following complaints from an anti-discrimination group that claimed the school’s previous mascot was stereotypical and offensive.
The new mascot is an “ethnically-ambiguous-looking” man with a neatly-trimmed beard and a kaffiyeh, according to Southern California Public Radio (SCPR). The Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees approved the mascot unanimously in a 5-0 vote on Tuesday night.
“The new mascot is a distinguished-looking Arab gentleman in historical dress,” Superintendent Darryl Adams told SCPR. “It’s a stoic figure but a very classy figure. It symbolizes pride and leadership for the football team, or just the school in general.”
The CVHS football team will now call themselves the “Mighty Arabs.” The old “Arab” mascot was a “bearded, snarling” figure with a “large, hooked nose” and a “head scarf,” according to the AP. In November, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed a complaint with the school board, calling the mascot stereotypical and offensive.
Now, the ADC will reportedly help the school district raise between $20,000 and $30,000 to erase the old mascot’s image from the school’s campus, website, and students’ P.E. t-shirts.
ADC policy and legal director Abed Ayoub told SCPR the organization is pleased with the design of the new mascot.
“We’re very happy with this,” Ayoub said. “It’s something that could be on the murals and on the gym floor without offending anybody. It’s not a caricature based on stereotypical, Orientalist views of who Arabs are. What was happening at Coachella was something very egregious. It was something we felt we had to address right away.”
Superintendent Adams apparently agreed, according to a statement provided to the Desert Sun.
“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. As I said before, we must forever keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open to the feelings of others even when no disrespect or harm is intended.”