The Southern California high school that had come under fire for its "Arab" mascot and logo, widely denounced as racist, now has a new mascot: the "Mighty Arab."
"The new mascot is a distinguished-looking Arab gentleman in historical dress," Superintendent Darryl Adams Coachella of the Valley Unified School District told KPCC. "It's a stoic figure but a very classy figure."
The school district approved Coachella Valley High School's new logo and nickname after an anti-discrimination group objected to the old one, which depicted a scowling man with a scraggly beard, hooked nose and headscarf.
The new "Mighty Arab" mascot and logo will represent the school in Riverside County with a trimmed beard and kaffiyeh featuring the initials "CV."
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The new mascot was approved at the district's Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week, about a year after the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee voiced objections to the old mascot. Mascot discussion occurred in a closed-door meeting Tuesday before the unanimous vote in favor of the new logo and nickname.
The old nickname was just "the Arabs," minus the "Mighty."
District officials said last week that the old mascot costume, which included the scowling face on an enlarged head, will no longer appear at events. The costumed mascot appeared at events such as football games, alongside a costumed belly dancing genie character.
The new logo will be featured on uniforms and physical education shirts. The old logo will be removed from murals on several school buildings and signs on the campus, school officials told KPCC.
Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said the group fully supports the new mascot and image.
"We're very happy with this," Ayoub told KPCC. "It's something that could be on the murals and on the gym floor without offending anybody. It's not a caricature based on stereotypical, Orientalist views of who Arabs are."
Ayoub is planning to attend a joint news conference Friday with school officials, KPCC reported.
The Arab mascot has existed since the 1920s to recognize the desert region's reliance on date farming, a traditionally Middle Eastern crop. Opposition to the change had come mostly from the school's alumni, but the president of the alumni association Rich Ramirez welcomed the move.
"All the alumni want to keep it as it was," Ramirez told The Desert Sun. "But I've written a lot of retorts saying, 'It's not up to us any longer in today's society. If you offend one of 10, you've got to do something about that one."