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Calif. High School Shelves Controversial 'Arab' Mascot; Nickname Remains

After drawing the ire of anti-discrimination groups this past school year, Coachella Valley (Calif.) High School has retired its controversial "Arab" mascot, according to Brett Kelman of The Desert Sun.

Back in November, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to the district asking the high school, whose mascot, logo, and nickname was "the Arabs," to "immediately address" its "orientalist stereotyping of Arabs."

In the letter, the committee wrote that the mascot "depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kaffaiy, or traditional Arab head covering." The mascot was also accompanied by a female belly dancer at halftime of sporting events, as seen below:

After the issue gained national attention, Coachella Valley Superintendent Darryl S. Adams said the mascot "provokes negative feelings," which "must be addressed." He remained steadfast about the school keeping its nickname, however, saying that it was designed to "show both respect and honor for the Middle Eastern cultures and crops known to be strong throughout the Coachella Valley." 

The district thus decided to shelve the mascot and belly-dancing genie, per The Desert Sun, and has reportedly promised that more changes are coming. Abed Ayoub, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's director of legal and policy affairs, told the paper that his group had approved a re-designed logo for the school: a "stoic, strong-jawed man with a neatly trimmed beard, a white headscarf and his face half-covered in shadow," as Kelman described.

"We passed it around to experts and community members," Ayoub told the paper. "We took our time to get the opinion of that logo, and it was overwhelmingly positive."

In a statement released this past weekend, the district announced that it would soon be holding a joint press conference to announce a resolution to the ongoing concerns about the mascot.

"The district and the ADC are close to resolving this matter in a very positive manner," the district said in its statement, per The Desert Sun. "We hope that those witnessing our collaboration will follow our lead and keep their eyes, ears and hearts open to the feelings of others."

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