Meet the "Arab," Coachella Valley High's mascot: He wears a smirk, has a hooked nose, and, in some depictions, has just one tooth. And the controversy around him is heating up. In a letter to the school last week, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee slammed the "orientalist stereotyping." Even the school's superintendent acknowledges some reservations. "When I first came here, I raised an eyebrow," says Darryl Adams. "Being an African American from the Deep South, I’m sensitive to stereotyping."
The mascot was picked in the 1920s, and the school's alumni association says it was inspired by local similarities to the Middle East, including the importance of date farming and a local town called Mecca. "It was totally an admiration of the connection with the Middle East," Adams tells the Desert Sun. The mascot has changed design over the years, with the current one based on an "angry Arab" image from the 1950s, the Sun reports. The activist group has also launched a petition against the figure, and the issue will be addressed at the next school board meeting. "Times are changing, and we have to understand that," says an alumni association director. The news comes amid debate over the Washington Redskins' name.