Wednesday, 28 Feb 2024

'Race faker' called out by her own mum who says she is ‘as white as snow’

A diversity officer who allegedly told colleagues she was of Latin, South Asian and Arab descent was ‘outed’ as being white by her mum.

Raquel Saraswati, a Chief Inclusion Officer at Philadelphia-based Quaker group American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), has been accused of ‘cultural vulturism’ and ‘faking’ her heritage.

The 39-year-old’s mother openly claimed her daughter is ‘white as snow’ and is really of English, German and Italian descent.

Carole Perone told The Intercept: ‘I call her Rachel. I don’t know why she’s doing what she’s doing.

‘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.’

An open letter from a ‘group of individuals who care deeply about AFSC’ expressed concern about Saraswati, and claimed to provide an ‘in-depth analysis of her ancestry’.

The authors called on the organisation to investigate ‘why a member of its most senior leadership has so profoundly eroded trust among people of color’.

Her colleagues are said to be concerned she is actively undermining their work, and have noted ‘the shades of bronzer she applies to her face have become darker over time’.

Oskar Pierre Castro, who helped hire Saraswati in June 2021, said he feels conned as her ethnicity played a role in her recruitment.

‘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,’ he added.

According to the open letter, Saraswati was born in Paterson, New Jersey, and was sent to boarding school in Troy, New York, where she converted to Islam.

She then studied at Simmons University in Boston before marrying her girlfriend Anh Dao Kolbe in 2005.

In 2004, the couple’s wedding was mentioned in a Boston Globe feature, in which Saraswati went by the name Seidel – her mum’s maiden name – and said she was of Arab and Latin descent.

Sometime after the article, she switched her name to Saraswati, and in 2005, she was performing belly dances under her new name.

The couple are now divorced, and Saraswati moved to Pennsylvania, where she now lives.

Before her current role, she worked with the American Islamic forum for Democracy.

An un-named AFSC leader said: ‘Imagine the trauma of people who confided in her, trusted her, and shared sensitive information about their work and about their lives, thinking that she’s a fellow person of color.’

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