A prominent human rights attorney is facing backlash this week, after she was accused of posing as a Latina throughout her career.
According to a recent Prism report, Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan has spent years advocating for Latin communities while presenting herself as a Puerto Rican woman from New York; however, records obtained by the outlet show the 43-year-old white woman—who was said to be the National Lawyers Guild's first "Latina" president—may have misrepresented her ethnic and cultural background.
Prism states that Bannan's paternal family came to United States from Ireland and Italy in the early 1900s, while her maternal family came to the country from Russia. The report also points out that Bannan identified as a white "non-Hispanic" in 1994 at the age of 17, suggesting she didn't begin identifying as a Latina until adulthood.
It's worth noting that Latino/a isn't a racial category, as it generally refers to those who are either from Latin America or are descendants from Latin Americans. According to Prism's report, Bannan appears to be neither.
Bannan, who is now senior counsel at LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, told Prism she has identified as Latina because she was "raised in" the Latin culture, but acknowledged she was racially white. Bannan also provided the outlet with a 2016 private Facebook post in which she addressed her heritage and race.
"My biological origins are Italian, atheist Jewish/Sephardic, some unknown (adopted grandfather) and who knows what else," the post reportedly read. "My biological parents were born in the United States, and I was raised with only one of them. Yet the Colombian family who I grew up with and who were responsible in grand part for raising me, who helped form my character and identity were from many different ethnic identities and backgrounds .. [I'm] deeply spiritual and cultural connection with Borinquen that has lasted many lives and took over my spirit, accent and soul from a young age."
Prism points out the attorney's mother had married a man with a Spanish surname when Bannan was 6. More than a decade later, her mother married another who also had a Spanish surname.
Shortly after the report, Bannan took to Twitter to provide more details about her upbringing.
"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," Chicana immigration public defender Sophia Gurulé told Prism. "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."
Social media users echoed Gurulé, accusing Bannan for not only misrepresenting her roots, but also accepting opportunities that were intended for actual Latinos.
You can read some of the reactions below.