A leader in the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has been accused of being white instead of being a “person of color,” prompting anger within the Left-wing organization, according to a new report.
Raquel Evita Saraswati, a Muslim activist who was born Rachel Elizabeth Seidel, is facing backlash from inside the AFSC after members and others raised concerns that Saraswati may not have been honest about her ethnic background, according to a new report from The Intercept.
According to the report, members of the AFSC are now upset that Sarawswati, the organization’s chief of diversity, equity, and inclusion, is reportedly white. An anonymous letter from members of the organization and others accused Saraswati of “cultural vulturism” and asked that she resign.
The Intercept spoke with family members of Saraswati who said that she was misrepresenting her identity. “I call her Rachel,” Carol Perone, Saraswati’s mother, said. “I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing.”
Perone told the outlet that her daughter is not Latina, South Asian, or Arab as previously portrayed, but instead has a family background originating in Britain, Germany, and Italy. “I’m as white as the driven snow and so is she,” Perone said. “She’s chosen to live a lie, and I find that very, very sad.”
Oskar Castro, a human resource professional with a focus on DEI who helped to bring Saraswati to the AFSC, told The Intercept that he felt “deceived” because he believed that she wasn’t white, and checked a variety of diversity boxes.
“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,” he said.
Saraswati also faced criticism for past appearances on outlets like Fox News.
“People are concerned,” a member of AFSC’s leadership told The Intercept. “There’s a fear that she could be an agent, because she started her career right-wing. She was a token Muslim voice in that milieu. She never publicly apologized.”
Layne Mullett, a spokesperson for the AFSC, said that it does not require its team members to “prove” their ethnic identity.
“We are in receipt of the documentation alleging that our Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Culture Officer, Raquel Saraswati, has been misrepresenting her identity. 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,” Mullet said.
Saraswati would not be the first person to mislead the public about an ethnic identity for apparent career advancement. Rachel Dolezal, the former NAACP Spokane chapter president, made headlines in 2015 when she was revealed to be a white woman pretending to be black.