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Raquel Saraswati

Source: LinkedIn/Raquel Saraswati

It appears that in the last decade or so, we’ve seen a relatively new phenomenon of white people who are not content with being white. Maybe whiteness just isn’t as sexy as it used to be. Perhaps 400 years or so of white supremacy, white power and whiteness dominating popular culture—despite popular culture largely being shaped by Black people—has caused Caucasians to go out of style. I mean, never before has a conservative political party been so desperate to diversify itself by scouring the sunken place for Black friends like today’s Republican party, which, ironically, purports itself to be against diversity and inclusion. Never before have TV showrunners and filmmakers been this dedicated to shirking the Hollywood tradition of all-white casts.

And it just doesn’t seem like we’ve ever come across so many white people who pretend to be of non-white races and ethnicities.

Meet Raquel Evita Saraswati.

For years, Saraswati has held down the position of 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—a queer Muslim woman of Latina, South Asian and Arab descent. Only, according to her own family members, she is neither Latina, South Asian or Arab. Instead, she’s mixed with white, white and infinitely more white. 

In fact, Saraswati’s real name is Rachel. No, not that Rachel—but pretty much that Rachel.

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 In the photos, which the mother asked not be published, Saraswati’s complexion is significantly lighter than the bronzed look in more recent photographs.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.”

It’s bad enough that the Rachel Dolezals of the world cosplay as people of color knowing they can slide right back into whiteness whenever it’s convenient for them. But it’s even worse (and more racist) when they do so in order to take jobs and other privileges that were meant for actual Black people and people of color. And the woman who apparently is so white even her Muslim name has “Sara” in it is no different.

More from the Intercept:

Oskar Pierre Castro, a human resources professional who participated in the search committee to fill Sarawati’s position, told The Intercept that she had presented herself as a “queer, Muslim, multiethnic woman.”

“It really touched all the points,” said Castro, who works for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, a Quaker group that frequently partners with the AFSC, and who was involved in the search along with AFSC staff members. He added that he had been impressed by Saraswati’s credentials and charm and that he thought she would be a good fit for the diversity and inclusion role 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.”

Castro added, “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. I definitely feel conned. … I feel deceived.”

In a series of deleted tweets, Saraswati appeared to try to explain herself by, well, not really explaining herself but promising to explain herself at a later date.

“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.”

First of all, calling a white woman a white woman isn’t an “attack.” And Saraswati must have realized playing the victim by using that word was unlikely to go over very well because in another deleted tweet she wrote: “I realize that some will be angered by my use of the word ‘attack’ and that for some, nothing I say will be enough.”

I mean, literally, all she has to do is admit she’s white, apologize for lying about it and for making non-white skin part of her wardrobe, and yield the position she’s taken to an actual woman of color.

But apparently, she plans on doing none of those things.

“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 a 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.”

Yeah—that sounds about white. 


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