That’s right—the white women are once again lying about their racial/ethnic identity! On Thursday, Prism published an article alleging that Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, a prominent human rights attorney, has been lying about being Latina for years. A white woman from Georgia. Bannan has publicly identified as Latina for over a decade, though the details of her identity have shifted during that time, and she has been accepting opportunities intended for Latinx people and other people of color since 2006.
In 2015, Bannan alluded to having Colombian family, but by 2017, she was also claiming to be Puerto Rican. However, Prism reports that nothing in Bannan’s lineage would give her any ground to lay claim to a Latina identity or heritage. Her paternal family hails from Ireland and Italy, and her maternal family arrived in the U.S. from Russia. Court records from when Bannan was 17 years old also identify her as white and “non-Hispanic.”
But when contacted by Prism for this story, Bannan said she has identified as Latina for as long as she can remember because that was the culture she was “raised in.” She also claimed she has been public about her whiteness, but declined to provide sufficient examples supporting this claim. However, shortly after hearing from Prism, Bannan wrote a Facebook post clarifying that she was “racially white,” a phrase that seems deliberately ambiguous.
When talking to Prism about her racial identity, Bannan said:
“I am racially white, and have always said that. However my cultural identity was formed as a result of my family, both chosen and chosen for me, and that has always been Latinx. My identity is my most authentic expression of who I am and how I pay honor to the people who have formed me since I was a child.”
Chicana immigration public defender and policy advocate Sophia Gurulé was “disgusted” to hear about Bannan’s deception.
“There’s an interview she did for LatinasRepresent that is just unbelievable to me because she acknowledges Latinas are so underrepresented in this profession. To me, it’s clear she has some kind of white savior complex. In the video, she talks about being the only point of reference her Latino clients know; she says she’s a ‘bridge’ for them. All of it centers her and is framed like she is coming in to save our communities.”
Similar to Jessica Krug, the white academic who spent her career pretending to be Black, Bannan has reportedly at times adopted an affected Latinx accent, and often “dresses according to Latina stereotypes.” Bannan is currently senior counsel at LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, and despite her more than a decade of misrepresenting her identity, the organization is standing by Bannan’s side.
Bannan responded to the Prism article on Thursday evening with a wild series of tweets on her personal Twitter page, in which she identifies herself as “a racially white, U.S.-based woman,” but also as “a Latina,” and says that her biological origins are “Italian, atheist Jewish and some unknown.” She also says that she’s had a Colombian stepfather, a Peruvian stepfather, and that she has “Puerto Rican extended family,” none of which actually makes her a Latinx person. For a woman who has allegedly been pretending to be Latina for nearly a decade and a half, you would think she’d be better at lying about it by now!
On Thursday evening, the author of the Prism article, Tina Vasquez, responded to Bannan’s denial on Twitter:
Upon learning that Bannan had lied about her Puerto Rican identity, Puerto Rican journalist Julio Ricardo Varela was taken aback.
“I don’t understand why she couldn’t just say: ‘I’m a white person and I want to be an ally.’ We need allies, but now I’m thinking about all of the badass Puerto Rican women attorneys whose voices were left out because [Bannan] was uplifted as an expert.”