A New York attorney who for years aligned herself with Latinx communities and identified as Colombian and Puerto Rican is actually a white woman from Georgia with Irish, Italian, and Jewish ancestry, Prism reports. In a series of tweets, the woman stated that her identity as a Latina comes from her “most profound relationships.”
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, 43, has identified as Latina for years and accepted opportunities intended for Latinx folks and people of color since 2006, Jezebel reports. Bannan publicly defends Latinx individuals and currently serves as senior counsel at LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund.
After Prism's Thursday report showcased Bannan's misrepresentation, the attorney posted a Twitter thread clarifying her identity. She said her Colombian and Peruvian stepfathers helped shape her identity and that her biological origins are European.
"My biological origins are Italian, atheist Jewish and some unknown," Bannan wrote. "My biological parents were born in the United States, and I was raised with only one of them, with either little to no real connection to either the people or cultures of either side."
Although she claims she is "racially white," Bannan wrote her "identity as a Latina" has defined and shaped her work.
Immigration policy advocate and public defender Sophia Gurulé said she was "disgusted" by Bannan's actions, specifically a video in which Bannan addresses the importance of Latina representation in the legal field.
“There’s an interview she did for LatinasRepresent that is just unbelievable to me because she acknowledges Latinas are so underrepresented in this profession," Gurulé said, per Prism. "To me, it’s clear she has some kind of white savior complex."
Bannan is also accused of using an "affected accent" at a 2015 event and in other videos. Ana Gabriela Urizar, who is a Guatemalan immigrant and who practices corporate immigration law, told Prism that "actual Latinas couldn't get away with what she does."
"It’s like she’s wearing a Latina costume and dresses according to Latina stereotypes," Urizar said, per Prism. "A lot of us endure so much criticism because of the way we look and the way that we talk; the hate and harassment we receive means we have to tone ourselves down."
Although Bannan tweeted that Prism's article included "misstatements," reporter Tina Vasquez tweeted that other people in Bannan's circle confirmed the reporting.
LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund said it stands behind Bannan, but other organizations are taking steps to address Bannan's "deception," per Prism. The National Lawyers Guild said there is an "internal process" taking place and urged those harmed by Bannan's appropriation to reach out.
“Bringing Natasha to a place where she can acknowledge the harm she has caused is part of the accountability process," the guild said, per Prism. "Not a prerequisite to it.”
One person tweeted that people like Bannan "disproportionately hold positions of power and authority in these spaces compared to their Black, Indigenous and Asian Latinx counterparts."
Bannan and the LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot's requests for comment.
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