Home Scandal and Gossip AFSC director resigns amid claims of living a lie

AFSC director resigns amid claims of living a lie

Raquel Saraswati AFSC officer resigns
Raquel Saraswati resigns amid AFSC officer's lies about multi-cultural heritage.
Raquel Saraswati AFSC officer resigns
Raquel Saraswati resigns amid AFSC officer’s lies about multi-cultural heritage.

Raquel Saraswati resigns: AFSC director forced out amid claims of lying about her multi-cultural heritage and posing as social justice activist as questions are raised. 

Defining identity. Who exactly is Raquel Saraswati?

A white chief inclusion officer at a Philadelphia Quaker-founded social justice firm who was outed last week for faking her multi-cultural heritage has resigned from her position amid fallout from the controversy. 

Raquel Evita Saraswati, 39, was named Woman of the Year, served on the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs and until last week worked as the chief equity and inclusion officer for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

The 39-year-old white Muslim and activist quit after being accused of ‘cultural vulturism’ – in which the inclusion director had claimed being of Arab, Latin and South American heritage while her own mother in an interview claimed Saraswati grew up in a Christian household and was of ‘British, German and Italian’ heritage while saying her ‘fraudulent lifestyle’ was nothing less than ‘crazy.’

AFSC said there was no requirement for an employee to ‘prove their race or ethnicity,’ while confirming Saraswati’s departure and describing her ‘separation from the organization’ as a ‘deeply personal issue.’

When progressives turn to persecuted identities to advance their career 

In a statement to the dailymail, the entity wrote: ‘AFSC’s Chief Equity, Inclusion, and Culture Officer, 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.

‘AFSC supports her in this difficult decision. This is a deeply personal issue, and we respect her privacy and ask that others do as well.’

The organization has stressed its commitment to working globally with people from ‘all faiths, ethnicities, races and backgrounds for lasting peace with justice.’

‘Through our history and continuing today, AFSC has brought the Quaker belief in peace, equity, integrity, and the divine Light in every person into vital work across the U.S. and around the world,’ the statement continued.

‘We see ending all forms of racism as a critical part of this work both within our organization and in the world.’

Saraswati, who grew up as Rachel Seidel, was investigated by a ‘group of individuals who care deeply’ about the AFSC and provided an open letter which identified years of deception.

Human resources professional Oskar Henry Castro, who participated in ASFC’s hiring committee for Saraswati, told the Intercept that Saraswati had represented herself as ‘multiethnic’ and as ‘a queer person of color, who happens to be a Muslim’ in hiring interviews he saw.

Multi-cultural con job feel good for the public 

‘I definitely feel conned. I feel deceived,’ he said.

Saraswati’s case echoes other prominent examples of public figures accused of misrepresenting their heritage. This includes New York U.S. Rep. George Santosfalse claims of being a descendant of Holocaust survivors and former Spokane, Washington, NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal (now Nkechi Diallo), who claims African American identity.

Family members said Saraswati started to shape her new identity after going to boarding school.

Saraswati has been at the center of a media frenzy following the deception, but commentators noted the irreparable damage her misrepresentations have caused for the minority groups she’d so vocally tried to represent over the years.

‘This is not about ‘proving’ one’s heritage but about lying, misrepresentation and taking opportunities from actual women of color,’ tweeted documentarian Laila Al-Arian, who referred to Saraswati as aRachel Dolezal of the Muslim community.’

Journalist Sana Saeed, who called attention to Saraswati’s heritage as early as 2015, tweeted about the ‘harm she’s done – especially the years she worked as essentially a ‘native informant’ with anti-Muslim orgs & platforms.’

Raquel Saraswati AFSC officer resigns
Raquel Saraswati resigns amid AFSC officer’s lies about multi-cultural heritage.

Can one become the the identity they imagine irrespective of biology or actual heritage?

Saraswati has refused to comment amid her outing, while deleting her social media platforms and taking a step back from her once prominent self-promotional lifestyle.

A broadly circulated screenshot of a social media post from Saraswati is said to have promised that she would provide answers when she was able. 

Saraswati’s appearance began to change while still at high school as she publicly rejected her heritage and started to claim she was Latin, South Asian or of Arab descent according to her family.

‘Rachel was a very sweet, loving child. She went to church with us and she belonged to several different church clubs,’ a family member told the dailymail. 

‘We all had the expectation that she was going to do great things because she was bright and politically astute but what we didn’t know was it would be in a fraudulent manner.’

The relative said that the entire family have been ‘shocked’ and ‘saddened’ by the entire situation believing that at one time they had been ‘close to Saraswati.’

Which raises the awkward question, why had Saraswati sought to ‘make up’ or ‘re-invent’ her actual identity or to be blunt- can one become the the identity they imagine irrespective of biology or actual heritage?

In 2007, Saraswati herself told conservative media host Glenn Beck she was ‘estranged’ from her family, ‘for reasons that I can’t get into.’

‘It’s curious and bizarre,’ the relative told the dailymail. 

Saraswati’s double life

‘The comments to Glenn Beck were really bizarre because she said she was estranged from her family.

‘I felt very sad because we thought, wrongly, that we were very close to Rachel and that she was a very bright, politically astute woman.

‘She went about all of this the wrong way.

‘There was no way we had no relationship with her. Her friends, who would continue to see us all, still asked us how she was doing and we embarrassingly had to admit we didn’t know.’

The family have not spoken to Saraswati, who they say they last saw at her graduation, except for an alleged phone call in which she blasted her biological mother for revealing her true ancestry.

‘We went to her graduation, had lunch with her and never saw her again.’

The family stressed that they have never tried to ‘out’ Saraswati’s ‘double life.’

‘Her mother really had no influence on this information surfacing, her double life…  we knew about it for a while and nobody tried to correct it,’ they said.

‘It came from people concerned about where she worked who suspected something wasn’t quite right.

The age of ‘cultural vulturism’ 

‘We have always said it’s a crazy, crazy situation and the people that we know and knew her growing up also agree that it’s just crazy.’

The linchpin, an open letter from the anonymous group, provided an in-depth analysis of the 39-year-old’s ancestry and her work, and expressed concern about her role.

They accused Saraswati – who converted to Islam in high school, and has since come out as gay – of ‘cultural vulturism’, and noted ‘the shades of bronzer she applies to her face have become darker over time’.

The authors of the damning open 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?’

She took on a higher profile after 9/11, appearing on Beck’s show and in a 2013 film produced by the Clarion Project, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center said specialized in ‘rabidly anti-Muslim films.’

She worked with the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, another group that has been accused of promoting Islamophobia.

In 2017, she told Philly Mag: ‘All too often, progressive and well-meaning people ally with organizations and individuals in marginalized or targeted communities without consulting those on the margins of those communities — like LGBTQ2SIA people, dissidents, women, minority sects, racial and ethnic minorities, etc.’ 

On her Facebook page, she promotes a book entitled: ‘All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep.’

When Saraswati applied for the job at AFSC, Castro said that her ethnicity played a part in the decision to appoint her in June 2021 as Chief Equity, Inclusion and Culture Officer.

‘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 told The Intercept.

He said he was impressed by her resume and her charisma.

‘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,’ he said.

The AFSC has a history of being infiltrated by the FBI, The Intercept noted, and has been targeted by pro-Israel groups due to its work on the Palestinian cause.