California school faces fire for decades-old ‘Arabs’ mascot

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A high school in Southern California has come under fire for its mascot, a big-nosed, beard-wearing man with a traditional head covering that’s supposed to portray the name, the “Arabs.”

But why the school is facing fire now — since the mascot and athletic teams’ name have been in use since the 1930s — is not clear. Still, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to Coachella Valley High School administrators earlier this month, demanding a name and mascot change, CNN reported.

The group, in its letter, said it was “shocked to learn that the Arab” is the official mascot, and that it “perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans,” CNN reported. The group complained of the mascot that “depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard and wearing” a head covering, CNN said. The group also decried the halftime show that takes place at school sporting events: A “female dressed as belly dancer entertains the mascot by dancing for him,” the letter said.

But school athletes and officials say the chant, “Let’s go Arabs, let’s go,” has been going on since the 1930s, CNN said. And the president of the Coachella Valley high school alumni association said to CNN’s local affiliate station that the mascot was really an honor.

“It wasn’t to discriminate, it was to say ‘hey, thank you Middle East, Iraq, Algeria,’ ” said Rich Ramirez, in the report. “This [is] what we like to do. And we’re proud of being Arabs.”

The school superintendent, meanwhile, said he is taking the complaints seriously and promised to discuss the matter at an upcoming board meeting.

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