The Many Races of Raquel Saraswati: Muslim activist is accused of faking her 'Arab and Latin' heritage
TROY, NEW YORK: A Muslim progressive activist, who claims to be a person of color, has reportedly been accused of fabricating her “Arab and Latin” heritage for the last two decades. Raquel Evita Saraswati, 39, was "outed" by "a group of individuals who care deeply" about the American Friends Service Committee where she works while pretending to be of Latin, South Asian, and Arab descent.
Saraswati made the assertion in 2004 while speaking to Boston.com. “We want it to be something special, not about hype and not about media,” she told the outlet. Saraswati was born Rachel Elizabeth Seidel and is referred to as “Raquel Evita Seidel” in the article. Now after many years, an old photo of the social justice activist surfaced with visibly lighter skin and no hijab while posing with a person captioned as her wife of three years. Although it is not known if the person in the picture and Saraswati are still together or not.
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The recent images of Saraswati, however, portray a completely contrasting picture as she is shown with a much darker complexion, hijab, dark eye makeup, and fuller eyebrows. "I definitely feel conned. I feel deceived," Oskar Pierre Castro, a human resources professional who participated in the search committee to fill Saraswati's position, told The Intercept.
An open letter from the anonymous group provided insight into the 39-year-old's ancestry and her work and expressed concern about her role. According to the writing, Saraswati converted to Islam while in high school and has since come out as gay due to "cultural vulturism." It was noted that "the shades of bronzer she applies to her face have become darker over time". The shocking claim seemingly appears to be true as an early 2000 picture shows a younger Saraswati with her hair pulled back and only a small amount of makeup on her cheeks.
The authors of the letter called on AFSC to investigate "why a member of its most senior leadership has so profoundly eroded trust among people of color". They noted her appearance on conservative-hosted shows, and asked "Are there external entities with whom Saraswati is collaborating?", Daily Mail reported.
@joyce_afsc please fire “Raquel Evita Saraswati”. She is a racist, troubled, culture vulture who is an attention seeker that does not care about harming all the ethnicities, races and religions she stole. Please do not make AFSC complicit to her crimes. FIRE HER! pic.twitter.com/PTA2fuu1A8— SailorMoonLight (@SailorHoe100) February 19, 2023
AFSC's chief marketing and communications officer Mark Graham said that the organization "has given Raquel the opportunity to address the allegations against her, and Raquel stands by her identity." He added, "Raquel also assures us that she remains loyal to AFSC's mission, which we firmly believe."
'Can we talk about Raquel Dolezal?'
Saraswati's real identity was first questioned by media commentator Sana Saeed, who tweeted in 2015, "Can we talk about 'Raquel Dolezal' in the Muslim community. Y'all know who I mean." Even her mother Carol Perone confirmed her daughter was not a person of color. Perone even stated her family is “white as driven snow".
Can we talk about 'Raquel Dolezal' in the Muslim community. Y'all know who I mean.— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) July 16, 2015
Saraswati's mother speaks out
“I call her Rachel. I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing,” Perone told the Intercept. “I’m as White as the driven snow and so is she.” “I’m German and British, and her father was Calabrese Italian. She’s chosen to live a lie, and I find that very, very sad,” the mother said.
Saraswati and her life
In 2007, Saraswati herself told conservative media host Glenn Beck she was "estranged" from her family, "for other reasons that I can't get into." Her mother was adopted by Carl and Winifred Seidel, who ran a guesthouse in the Catskill mountains, in Windham, New York. Saraswati's grandparents were Ed Newman and Myrtle Burkhardt. They reportedly had 18 children but put most of them up for adoption, according to a 1988 newspaper report found by the authors of the letter.
Perone said Saraswati's father is now dead. She had a relationship with him before marrying Flory Perone, who died in 2006. Saraswati was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and spent a large part of her life in Windham, where she attended school before being sent to boarding school in Troy, New York. She studied at Simmons University in Boston, settling in Massachusetts and marrying her girlfriend Anh Dao Kolbe in 2005.