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Welp, it appears that there’s a new Rachel Dolezal in town and, well, her name is still Rachel, allegedly.

Meet Raquel Evita Saraswati, the chief equity, inclusion and culture officer for the American Friends Service Committee, which The Intercept described as “a prominent Quaker organization known for its progressive values and social justice advocacy in the U.S. and abroad.” Saraswati appeared to be perfect for the job since she’s a queer Muslim woman of Latina, South Asian and Arab descent. Except, according to her own mother, she is none of those things.


OK, so let’s back things up a bit.

Meet Rachel Elizabeth Seidel, who has been going by Saraswati since she converted to Islam and started telling folks she’s a melanated and marginalized Muslim maiden while taking a job that would likely have gone to an actual woman of color because it’s a position to oversee diversity and inclusion in the AFSC, and Saraswati isn’t even racially diverse within her own DNA—again, according to her mom.

From the Intercept:

But Saraswati, who was born Rachel Elizabeth Seidel, is not a person of color, according to her mother, Carol Perone.

“I call her Rachel,” Perone told The Intercept, when reached by telephone. “I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing.”

Saraswati, her mother added, is of British, German, and Italian descent — not Latina, South Asian, or Arab. “I’m as white as the driven snow and so is she,” added Perone, who also shared with The Intercept photos of Saraswati as a child. In the photos, which the mother asked not be published, Saraswati’s complexion is significantly lighter than the bronzed look in more recent photographs. Perone also shared with The Intercept her profile and a photo of Saraswati’s biological father, who is deceased. Another relative who asked not to be identified confirmed that Saraswati is white.

Perone noted that her daughter converted to Islam in high school and that at some point she seemed to have felt the need to portray herself as having a different ethnic identity.

“I’m German and British, and her father was Calabrese Italian,” her mother added. “She’s chosen to live a lie, and I find that very, very sad.”

Oskar Pierre Castro, an AFCS human resources worker who was part of the team that recruited Saraswati, appeared to confirm that they wanted a woman of color for the job when he told The Intercept that she had presented herself as a “queer, Muslim, multiethnic woman.”

“It really touched all the points,” Castro said, adding that

Saraswati appeared to fit the diversity and inclusion role perfectly because “it seemed that there was an element of lived experience and understanding because of the lived experience, not just the academic and extra training that come with being in a position where you are an equity and inclusion practitioner.” Unfortunately, that lived experience doesn’t come from growing up as “white as the driven snow.”

“In my mind it was, ‘Great, a person of color, a queer person of color, who happens to be a Muslim, it’s a woman, all these things, and someone who seemed to get it,” Castro continued. “I definitely feel conned…I feel deceived.”

In a series of now-deleted tweets, Saraswati addressed the controversy with promises to explain herself at a later time, even though folks don’t really want to hear it, which she acknowledged.

“I assure people that as soon as I am capable, I will provide answers to the recent discussion and attack on me,” she wrote in one tweet. “I understand all the reactions you’re having. I am currently taking the time to get to where I can answer in a way that is most helpful and thorough.”

“I realize that some will be angered by my use of the word ‘attack’ and that for some, nothing I say will be enough,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet, likely because she realized that describing the act of calling a white woman a white woman as an “attack” is absurd.

Or maybe the problem is, like Dolezal, Saraswati isn’t ready to admit she’s a whole white woman treating non-whiteness like it’s a costume. At least, that’s what the statement by the AFSC appears to indicate.

“We are in receipt of the documentation alleging that our Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Culture Officer, Raquel Saraswati, has been misrepresenting her identity,” AFSC spokesperson Layne Mullett wrote in the statement. “AFSC has given Raquel the opportunity to address the allegations against her, and Raquel stands by her identity. Raquel also assures us that she remains loyal to AFSC’s mission, which we firmly believe. AFSC does not require any employee to ‘prove’ their heritage as a condition of their employment, or in order to be valued as a member of our team.”

She stands by her identity and will be keeping her job, huh? Sounds about white, don’t it?