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Calif. High School Under Fire for 'Arab' Mascot

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A California high school is facing pressure from a national anti-discrimination group over its school nickname, mascot, and logo, the Arabs.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) sent a letter to the Coachella Valley Unified School District on Nov. 1, according to The Desert Sun, asking the district's high school to "immediately address" its "orientalist stereotyping of Arabs."

According to the ADC, the "Arab" mascot comes out at halftime of sporting events accompanied by a female belly dancer, which you can see below:

The image of the mascot itself "depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kaffiay, or traditional Arab head covering," according to the ADC's letter. The school also has the "Arab" depicted riding on a carpet on the outside of its gymnasium.

"All these are examples of gross stereotyping, which must not be tolerated, and must immediately be addressed," wrote Abed Ayoub, the ADC's director of legal and policy affairs, in his letter to the district. "ADC strongly believes that use of the word and such imagery perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans. ... By allowing continued use of the term and imagery, you are commending and enforcing the negative stereotypes of an entire ethnic group, millions of whom are citizens of this nation."

The group has launched an online petition demanding that the school changes its mascot, "along with the imagery and terminology associated with it." As of 3 p.m. ET Thursday, more than 450 people had signed the petition.

The mascot was originally chosen in the 1920s, the school's alumni association told The Desert Sun, in honor of the area's reliance on date farming, which is traditionally a Middle Eastern crop. A nearby community named Mecca also pays homage to the Middle East.

District superintendent Darryl Adams told The Desert Sun that the mascot controversy will be addressed at the next school board meeting on Nov. 21. 

Photo: Coachella Valley High School's mascot, "Arab," dances to the band during a pep rally at the school in Thermal, Calif.  The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is calling on the Southern California high school to get rid of its longstanding mascot that it deems offensive. The mascot has been around since the 1920s and chosen to recognize the area's reliance on date farming, traditionally a Middle Eastern crop. (Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun/AP-File)

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