High School’s ‘Arab’ Mascot Deemed Offensive – Are Sports Mascots Depicting Ethnicities Offensive? [POLL/VIDEO]
The hue and cry to remove the “Redskins” mascot from the Washington NFL team grows with each passing day.
On a somewhat more muted scale, but growing nonetheless is a call to remove the “Chief Wahoo” mascot worn for years by MLB’s Cleveland Indians.
A California high school is under fire for the use of its “Arab” mascot at the school.
Seems if one group raises a ruckus, no matter how justified the cause, another will, at some point, join in.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, based in Washington D.C., sent a letter to the Coachella Valley Unified School District Thursday stating the mascot, which is painted on the walls of Coachella Valley High School, on the basketball gym floor and performed by a student during halftime of athletic events, are examples of gross stereotyping, which must not be tolerated.
“ADC strongly believes that use of the word and such imagery perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans,” wrote Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the committee. “The ‘Arab’ mascot image is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping which should be eliminated. 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.”
Ayoub said in an interview Wednesday he appreciates the sensitivity shown so far by the district and hopes to work with them on a solution for a new mascot. He declined to state what he wants the school to do – noting that should ultimately be decided by the district.
The pictures painted at the school include a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kffiay, or traditional Arab head covering. During sporting events a student dresses as the mascot comes out to music, while a female dressed as a belly dancer entertains him, Ayoub said.
The school has had a version of the mascot since 1910 and the local community has a connection to the Middle East because a lot of crops from the region are grown there locally, he said.
But the community can keep its connection without using such stereotypical images, Ayoub said.
“We live in a new America now,” he said. “We’re more racially sensitive and diverse. The logic used to pick that name no longer applies now.”
After Sept. 11, some people wanted the name changed so that the district would not be associated with terrorists, said David Hinkle, a 1961 Coachella Valley High School graduate to Al Jazeera America .
“I don’t think it’s meant to be insensitive,” Hinkle said. “It’s been that way for 50 or 60 years.”
My problem with the outcry over the ethnic portrayal of ethnic and racial stereotypes as sports mascots is that it’s one more step down the slippery slope to the eventual whitewashing of expression.
For instance (and I’ve noted this before); at one time African Americans were referred to as Colored, which changed to Negro, which became Black, which became African American, and in doing a “360”, ironically went back to “persons of color.”
Asians were referred to as “Oriental.” Ignorant, perhaps, but the expression was made truly anathema in recent years.
I feel “Redskins”, whether one likes it or not, will be relegated to the dustbin of history as will Chief Wahoo.
And as for the Coachella Valley High School Arabs, it’s only a matter of time.
But it addresses the larger concern we all have over what will be deemed offensive going forward.