Natasha Lycia Ora Bannar
Photo: Twitter/@lyciaora
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Prominent ‘Latina’ Lawyer Pretended to be Puerto Rican and Colombian

In news that’s no longer new, another white woman has been discovered to have been masquerading as a Latina for professional gain joining Rachel Dolezal, Jessica Krug, and Kelly Kean Sharp. Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan is a prominent human rights attorney that for more than a decade has used Latinidad to get ahead in her career while in actuality her family is Italian, Irish, and Russian. Prism senior reporter Tina Vásquez exposed the truth about Bannan in an extensively researched piece that explores her roots and how she’s advanced in her career while identifying as Puerto Rican and Colombian.

In court records from 1994, 17-year-old Bannan identified as white “non-Hispanic” yet in a statement to Prism, Bannan said she has identified as Latina for as long as she can remember because it was the culture she was “raised in.” In a series of tweets following the release of the article, Bannan alluded to her Latinx stepfathers as the reason she’s identifies with the culture:

“My Colombian stepfather and family who I grew up with were responsible in grand part for shaping me and forming my character and identity. My Peruvian stepfather who was actually the father that helped guide and protect me over decades left us this past year and with his absence.”

The 43-year-old is currently senior counsel at LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, who stands by her despite proof she’s not Puerto Rican according to a statement given to Prism. Her claims of being Puerto Rican first entered the public in 2017 when she told Voice Latina that she’s a “cultural mix of Puerto Rican, Colombian, Italian, and some other.”  She’s also tweeted in Spanish in the past though there’s no official word on if she can actually speak it.

Her career trajectory showcases a pattern of accepting positions meant for Latinas starting in 2006 when she was among 22 Latina fellows chosen to participate in the National Hispana Leadership Institute. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Peace, Health, and Justice Award from Casa Atabex Ache, an organization in the South Bronx that facilitates “collective transformation and social change for women of color.” Bannan was President of CUNY Law School’s Latin American Law Students Association and served as one of two law student fellows at the school’s Center for Latino/a Rights and Equality in 2009. In 2015 she was praised for becoming the first “Latina” president of the National Lawyers Guild, Prism reports. Yet Bannan declined to comment on if she has any regrets about taking opportunities away from women of color.

Bannan told Prism  that her identification as a Latina comes from her “lived experiences” and is an “authentic expression” of who she is. “Given that Latinx is not synonymous with race,” Bannan said, it “does not discount” her “lived experience as a racially white person.” To further maintain the ruse, it appears that at a 2015 event in support of Puerto Rican activist Oscar López Rivera she attempted to present herself as having an accent.

Latinas account for less than 2 percent of lawyers in the U.S. so her convenient adaptation of an identity that isn’t hers for professional gain literally took already limited opportunities away from WOC.

“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 and policy advocate 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.”