We'll Get Dolezals Until the Incentives Change
There’s a hot new Dolezal on the scene, “Raquel Evita Saraswati,” AKA Rachel Elizabeth Seidel. She’s the head of equity, inclusion, and culture at the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization I actually had some interaction with during my antiwar days. Anyone can be Muslim, of course, but not everyone can be a person of color, and representing yourself as one - say, by naming yourself “Saraswati” - is going to invite controversy. Seidel joins Jessica Krug, AKA Jess La Bombalera, Andrea Smith, perhaps Ward Churchill, and of course Rachel Dolezal herself, to go with a long list of others stretching back for some time. Some of these people are more deserving of sympathy, and some less; I always thought there was something tragic and wounded about Dolezal. But what they all share is that their behavior, while unfortunate, was profoundly rational - they were all merely responding to incentives. And we will continue to have more and more Dolezals moving forward because we’ve created social and professional incentives for people to behave this way. Seidel’s behavior is just an unusually simple case: it’s much harder to get a job in DEI as a white woman, so she ceased to be a white woman.
(For the record, Saraswati is the name of a major Hindu god, so perhaps Ms. Seidel was not the sharpest racial impersonator out there.)
Way back when the Rachel Dolezal controversy was first popping off, I wrote this: