A high school located in Coachella Valley, the city most well known for its annual music festival that draws thousands to the nearby Empire Polo Ground in Indio, Calif., currently faces pressure to drop its longstanding mascot name — the Arabs. As is the case with several other ethnically-charged team names such as the NFL's Washington Redskins, those offended by the school's mascot are calling for its removal.
Coachella Valley High School is a public school located in Southern California that was founded in 1910 on 10 acres of desert land, and their mascot was reportedly named due to the terrain and climate of the area. According to Al-Jazeera America, the school includes “harem girls” in its marching band parades and has a belly dancer perform at half-time of games. Despite the high school’s mascot, over 90% of its population is Hispanic.
Like many potentially offensive team names, the call for a change has existed for a lengthy period of time. In 2002, amidst growing fears of racism towards and stereotyping of Arab-Americans due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, school officials considered changing the mascot’s name. The name, however, has remained in place, and only recently faced a resurgence in public outrage.
The more recent push for a name change is being spearheaded by Abed Ayoub, the legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). Ayoub sent a letter to the school’s superintendent, explaining the mascot is “harmful” and “demeaning.” The ADC then began circulating a petition for the school to drop its mascot name.
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Like several other offensive team names, the Coachella Valley Arabs are reportedly rooted in history. From 1930 to 1980, a high school located in Pekin, Illinois had a mascot known simply as the “Chinks.” The town is named because it’s located directly half-way around the world from Pekin, China, and it now goes by the dragons. Supporters of the mascot name “Arabs” came that Coachella Valley has a deep connection to Arab roots, as 19th century U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials brought back date palm shoots to the area, the only region of the U.S. where the crops could healthily survive. The town also had plans to design itself as a mini-Middle East in order to boost tourism, a plan that never took off, according to Al-Jazeera.
In response to Ayoub’s letter, superintendent of Coachella Valley Unified School District Darryl Adams said “I look forward to discussing the matter. I definitely understand the sensitivity of it. We need to make adjustments and work together.”
It should be interesting to see how the potential name change plays out, especially as the issue of the mascot reaches news on a national level.