March 29, 2023
The name “Raquel” first originated in Spanish-speaking countries from “Rachel,” or the wife of Jacob in the Torah. The name “Evita” is the Hispanicization of Eve in the Bible, and means “life.” The name Saraswati, however, predates the two names by eons, and belongs to the Hindu goddess of knowledge, art, music, and learning. Yet Raquel Evita Saraswati — the alphabet soup of a name — is the moniker an activist born Rachel Elizabeth Seidel chose for herself.
For most of her life, Seidel claimed to be Muslim, queer, Arab, Hispanic, and South Asian, adding ethnicities to her ever-expanding heritage like magnets on a fridge. Now, Seidel, dubbed “the South Asian Rachel Dolezal” after the former NAACP leader who faked being Black, is facing a reckoning. Her mother has confirmed what many have long suspected, calling her daughter as “white as the driven snow.” Throughout her career, Seidel has embodied a litany of contradictions, which began to unravel only in recent weeks.