White woman accused of faking ethnic background resigns from progressive group

After getting outed as a fraud, a Philadelphia social justice organization’s white equity and inclusion officer who claimed to check off a litany of diversity boxes hoped to “maintain discretion” as ties were severed.

Raquel Evita Saraswati, or Rachel Elizabeth Seidel as her parents named her, can now count herself among the rarified crowd of racial hoaxers like Shaun King and Rachel Dolezal exposed for faking an ethnic background. Earlier in the month, Saraswati was revealed to be pretending to have Arab, Latin and South Asian heritage by her own mother and an anonymous letter.

On Tuesday, her association with the progressive group American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) as their chief equity, inclusion and culture officer came to a close as she reportedly resigned. Layne Mullett, an AFSC spokesperson emailed USA Today with confirmation of the split and wrote “Raquel Saraswati, who is facing public allegations that she misrepresented her background and past associations, has informed us of her intention to separate from the organization.”

As previously reported, her mother Carol Perone shared Ancestry.com records that detailed a background of British, German and Italian descent.

“I call her Rachel. I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing,” the mother said. “I’m as white as the driven snow and so is she.”

Saraswati, once named one of 2019’s women of the year by the Philadelphia National Organization for Women, had also described herself as queer and Muslim and the details of her true identity left ASFC’s human resources professional Oskar Henry Castro feeling duped.

“I definitely feel conned. … I feel deceived,” he told The Intercept.

Throughout her career, she had also appeared on Newsmax and Fox News to comment on Muslim extremism. In a statement issued to the latter, Saraswati wrote, “Out of respect for the process that we are in, I am choosing to maintain discretion regarding discussion of my departure, and will not be sharing details at this time other than to say that no, I was not fired.”

“I have carried out my work at AFSC with integrity and sincere commitment,” she claimed, “moving forward many aspects of organizational culture: improved non-discrimination policies, improvements to our conflict resolution work and our polices on sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse; facilitating even deeper inclusion for members of diverse faith communities; creating affinity spaces and much else.”

The now-former equity officer added, “I will be handling this phase of my relationship with AFSC with the same level of thoughtfulness and care as I did these important matters. Assertions that I am or would ever be a ‘mole’ are ludicrous and harmful to me and others. I was also honest and completely transparent in securing my role, which I have found extremely fulfilling. Regarding details of my personal life: I am currently taking the time I need both with loved ones as well as with professional counsel to ensure my concerns and interests are addressed comprehensively while maintaining discretion and care for the personal lives of others.”


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