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A-R-A-B, Sway Those Hips for Me!
Amer Zahr
Amer Zahr
Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 12:01 am (18 Comments)

Yesterday, a very interesting e-mail arrived in my inbox.  ADC (the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) informed me that they are expressing “direct concern to the Coachella Valley Unified School District, over the use of ‘Arab’ as the team name and mascot for the Coachella Valley High School (CVHS), located in Thermal, California.”

As it turns out, the high school has been around since 1910.  According to Wikipedia, “the school mascot was named to honor the once large imported Arab colony involved in the date palm growing industry.”  I guess they had to import Arabs to teach everyone there how to build the best date farms.  I guess that’s better than the other things we are known for teaching people how to build.

I was also shocked that the image of their mascot is a sheikhy-looking, turban-wearing, snarling, bearded, hook-nosed, middle-aged Arab man.  As you can see, he kind of looks like Jafar from “Aladdin.”  Or like Saddam Hussein.  Or like my dad.  Couldn’t they have just used Aladdin?  He’s Arab, and he looks harmless.

I was also upset that the halftime show at their basketball games includes a student dressed up as the “Arab” parading around proudly as a female student dressed up as a belly dancer seductively articulates her hips around him.  How offensive!  How dare they turn my perfectly good fantasy into a halftime show?

One of Coachella’s school colors is green, and they even use swords sometimes in their emblem.  Don’t they know we truly proud Arabs don’t make green logos with swords?  We leave that to Saudi Arabia.

Now, I live in Dearborn, Michigan, home to Fordson High School, where the population consists of about 2400 students, 95% of which are Arabs.  I never thought I would ever find a school with more than that.  But Coachella in California has about 2900 students, and they are all Arabs.  Take that, Fordson!

ADC wants them to change their name.  Apparently, the school considered changing it after 9/11, but they eventually decided to remain “Arabs.”  If 9/11 didn’t convince them it was a bad idea, I don’t know if any urging from ADC is going to achieve anything.  So if they insist on being “Arabs,” instead of asking the school to change the name of its mascot, we could just ask it to more firmly adhere to true Arab customs and traditions.

The school will have to make some important changes, and I have some suggestions.

First, all CVHS graduating seniors must become doctors.  After they receive their medical degrees, they may go on to opening gas stations, restaurants, or any other kind of mostly cash-bashed small business.  But they must continue to insist that everyone address them as “Doctor.”

Also, although the history of the name “Arab” at CVHS is based on the date industry, the school must make it clear that the word “date” refers to the fruit and not “a romantic rendezvous.”  Arabs don’t allow dating.  This disclaimer should be included on all school publications.

Accordingly, any female CVHS student is not allowed to go to prom, unless she is accompanied by a brother, cousin, or husband.  And it’s OK if the cousin and husband are the same person.

CVHS’s soccer team must hire a German coach.  If you are going to be Arabs playing soccer, you better be good.  Oh, and you have to start a ping pong team too.

The school has a Drama club.  Drama should be no problem for Arabs.  In the case that the club needs any assistance, I will be happy to send them my mother, sisters, and aunts.

All school breakfasts must be comprised of hummus, bread, and olives.

I see the school has a club named “Gay Straight Alliance.”  Unfortunately, this club must immediately be abolished.

The yearbook must now be issued one year late.

Finally, the pledge of allegiance must be modified.  It should be now be recited as:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under Allah, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, especially my brothers and sisters living under occupation in Palestine.

So far this year, the CVHS football team is 3-6.  Don’t be worried about this.  There is no expectation that Arabs be good at American football.  This weekend, the Arabs play their last game of the season against Indio High School.  Indio’s mascot is the “Rajah.”  A “rajah” is an Indian prince.  Their mascot also wears a turban.  That means we will see turban-wearing Indians against turban-wearing Arabs.  CNN might want to cover that.  I don’t really want to see Arabs and Indians play football.  That doesn’t sound too exciting.  I would love to see those debate teams go at it, though.  The first topic?  “Effective Methods of Bargaining.”

Now, I could say something like, “Imagine if their name was the ‘Blacks,’ or ‘Mexicans,’ or ‘Asians.’  Would we even ask if that was offensive?”  I guess I could make that argument.  I could probably say that using that offensive logo and having belly dancers prance around at your games only perpetuates damaging stereotypes at a time when we are already victims of massive discrimination.  But I’m an Arab living in America.  I don’t expect that kind of respect.

* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

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