The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 after Stalin called for a “Popular Front” of Communists and liberals to oppose Hitler. But with the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact, the National Lawyers Guild instantly became anti-anti-Nazi, costing it most of its non-Communist members.
Prominent human rights attorney Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan has spent more than a decade pretending to be Colombian and Puerto Rican.
TINA VÁSQUEZ ▸ JANUARY 7TH, 2021
For years, prominent human rights attorney Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan has positioned herself as an advocate for Latinx communities, most recently identifying as a Puerto Rican woman from New York determined to aid the island and bring attention to the economic and humanitarian crises produced by colonization. Unbeknownst to many in the Latinx communities she worked alongside and claimed as her own, Bannan is a white woman who grew up in Georgia. Since at least 2006, she has accepted opportunities expressly intended for Latinas and other people of color.
The 43-year-old, who is currently senior counsel at LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, has publicly identified as a Latina for years, though the specifics of her identity and origin story have shifted over time. …
Nothing in Bannan’s lineage indicates that she can lay claim to a Latina identity.
It’s funny how the concept of “social construction” goes out the window in cases like this.
According to historical public documents, including census and naturalization records, Bannan’s paternal family arrived in the United States from Ireland and Italy. Her Italian grandmother Lycia, the source of Bannan’s middle name, arrived in the U.S. in 1912. Records also indicate that Bannan’s maternal family all arrived in the U.S. from Russia. Court records from 1994, when Bannan was 17 years old, identify Natasha Lycia Bannan as a white “non-Hispanic.” Nevertheless, 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 public comments going back more than a decade, she has claimed varying forms of Latina identity, presenting vague and shifting descriptions of her ethnic and cultural origins. In 2007, Bannan told the the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario that she was “a little bit Spanish, a little bit Colombian, and a Sephardic Jew.”…
In a 2015 video, Bannan mentioned dancing in a salsa competition while visiting family in Colombia when she was eight years old. By 2017, claims of a Puerto Rican identity entered the public sphere. In one video, Bannan tells Voice Latina that she’s a “cultural mix of Puerto Rican, Colombian, Italian, and some other.”
Shortly after being contacted by Prism for this story, Bannan wrote a Facebook post Monday afternoon clarifying that she is “racially white” and that her “cultural heritage” and her identification as a Latina come from who her family “has been” and not where her “ancestors were from.” Bannan told Prism that she has been public about her white identity but declined to provide significant examples supporting this claim.
“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,” Bannan said.
In a subsequent email, Bannan shared a private 2016 Facebook post as proof that she has publicly identified as white.
“My biological origins are Italian, atheist Jewish/Sephardic, some unknown (adopted grandfather) and who knows what else. My biological parents were born in the United States, and I was raised with only one of them,” reads the post. “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.”
Bannan told Prism that her maternal grandfather was adopted, however he is listed as white in both the 1930 and 1940 census. Bannan didn’t clarify who her Colombian family is, or how long she was connected to them. Public records indicate Bannan’s mother was married to a man with a Spanish surname for five years, during the time Bannan was ages six to 11. Another marriage record indicates her mother had a subsequent marriage to a different man with a Spanish surname in 1995.
OK, so her mom liked sexy Latin Lover gentlemen, and little Natasha really got into salsa dancing when visiting her the family or families of her Spanish-surnamed stepfathers, at least one of whom lived in Colombia.
Similarly, Alec Baldwin’s wife’s parents are really into Spain, and so Hilary/Hilaria therefore took flamenco dancing classes in high school and really got into acting Spanish. By unconfirmed rumor, this may have helped her snag Alec on the rebound after Salma Hayek broke his heart. Alec has probably figured out by now that his wife, the mother of his five children, puts on an act when she speaks with a Spanish accent, but he appears to like her act, much like Gomez Adams was overcome by amour everytime Morticia spoke French. And as far as I can tell she, unlike these other ladies, hasn’t been claiming any affirmative action sinecures based on her spicy Latina act.
In the post, Bannan also wrote of her “deeply spiritual and cultural connection with Borinquen that has lasted many lives
Maybe she was the Princess of Puerto Rico in a previous incarnation? Can you prove she wasn’t?
and took over my spirit, accent and soul from a young age.”
Perhaps she had a Puerto Rican maid while growing up? Maybe she went to Dorado Beach for Spring Break? Maybe she had a tumultuous affair with her Puerto Rican dance instructor?
Bannan appears in a multitude of videos across the internet, mostly focused on Puerto Rico, as she has positioned herself as a Puerto Rican attorney and expert on the sociopolitical conditions facing the island and its people. …
Bannan has maintained that her identification as a Latina comes from her “lived experiences”
“Lived experience” means in 2020: some of this stuff I’m telling you is kind of true and the other parts feel to me like they could have or should have been true. Once you add in an interest in reincarnation, “lived experience” becomes an especially elastic concept.
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.” There are certainly white Latinos, but all available evidence, including Bannan’s own statements, indicate that she is not one. Ethnicity does not come through osmosis. Being in proximity to Colombian and Puerto Rican people does not make one Colombian or Puerto Rican.
These are rather dogmatically anti-social constructionist assertions. She has had a couple of Latin stepfathers. How much should that count? What if she’d been adopted by a Colombian family and grew up in Columbia?
To Latina attorneys whose identities have created more hurdles than opportunities, Bannan’s “authentic representation” appears to lean into stereotypes about Latina women.
Ana Gabriela Urizar, a Guatemalan immigrant practicing corporate immigration law at a private practice, said that watching videos of Bannan is “sad and funny.”
“It’s like she’s wearing a Latina costume and dresses according to Latina stereotypes,” Urizar said, as Bannan is almost always seen in media appearances wearing oversized jewelry and dark makeup. “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. Actual Latinas couldn’t get away with what she does.”
In other words, some white women can really pull off the whole Sofia Vergara Latin bombshell act, which a lot of women would like to do. But less white ones worry that they will come across as more like Rosie Perez if they indulge their taste for huge hoop earrings and the like.
There is also Bannan’s way of speaking. At a 2015 event in support of Puerto Rican activist Oscar López Rivera, Bannan addressed the crowd in what appears to be an affected accent, eerily similar to the one used by Jessica Krug in the now infamous video of the George Washington University professor speaking to the New York City Council.
Urizar told Prism that her accent has created hurdles for her in the legal profession and that it seems as if Bannan doesn’t understand that carrying the identity of a Latina attorney is not just a “luxury,” but rather something that comes with many challenges.
“If you really have an accent, you will have very negative experiences in this industry. People have made comments about whether I belonged here. Several people asked me if I took the bar exam in Spanish. At the time, it was extremely hurtful because I knew they were making assumptions about my capabilities,” Urizar said.
“I’ve been asked if I’m the paralegal or the secretary. People have said, ‘Where are you really from?’ Honestly, there were times when I wished I didn’t have an accent. It took a long time for me to be comfortable with my background and learn how to use it as a tool to advocate for others. So yes, it makes me angry to know that [Bannan] treated this identity like something she could jump in and out of for her own advantage.”
Urizar said that in professional environments, she is extremely cognizant of the stereotypes that Latinas are loud, hyper-sexual, and wear “flamboyant and colorful clothing” and “huge earrings.” In predominantly white lawyering spaces, Urizar said she is a “watered down version” of herself— she dresses more conservatively, intentionally picking smaller earrings and more muted colors.
In other words, her true self is loud, hyper-sexual, and wears flamboyant and colorful clothing and huge earrings. But all these affirmative action fakers who are Professional Latinas instead get to lean into the Jennifer Lopez Fabulosa act that is so much fun.
… “There were so many hurdles, sometimes stuff I didn’t even anticipate. I’m very animated when I speak; I use my hands a lot and because of this, comments were made about me,” Pérez said, noting that a white male attorney at a networking event referred to her as “spicy” and in another instance while preparing for a moot court competition, she was advised to “tone down” her gestures to appear more professional. “I kept getting this feedback that I knew was gendered and related to stereotypes and ideas of who Latinas are and how we move in the world.”
Stereotypes and ideas of who Latinas are and how we move in the world that are true
Latinas account for less than 2% of American lawyers and the opportunities available to them in the predominantly white legal field are limited—a fact Bannan acknowledged in a 2017 video in which she said she “can’t stress enough the importance of having Latino lawyers.” But that did not stop Bannan from siphoning resources, positions, and other opportunities intended for Latinas and other people of color in spaces where she already had a significant leg up as a white woman—and in spaces where her claimed Latina identity was never necessary for her to advance in her career.
In 2006, she was one of just 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.” In 2009, Bannan was President of CUNY Law School’s Latin American Law Students Association, and also served as one of two law student fellows at the school’s Center for Latino/a Rights and Equality (CLORE). Despite her resume identifying herself as a fellow, Bannan was an intern in 2010 for the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Ella Baker program, named after the African-American civil rights and human rights activist. Bannan became the National Lawyers Guild’s (NLG) president in 2015 and was heralded as the organization’s first Latina president. In 2016, she attended the Aspen Institute’s invitation-only Justice and Society Seminar as a Ricardo Salinas Scholar, courtesy of the Ricardo Salinas Scholarship Fund aimed at increasing the participation of Latinos in the Aspen Institute’s highly coveted events. Her writings have also been featured in a series of anthologies showcasing Latinos, including the 2018 book Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century USA and the 2019 book Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm.
In other words, here we are in the second half century of Racial/Ethnic Preferences in America, and there are all sorts of benefits for people who can work the Latina Lawyeress grift to their advantage.
By the way, American ladies pretending to be spicy senoritas is not at all a new thing. Al Jolson sang “She’s a Latin from Manhattan” in 1935:
Fate sent her to me, over the sea from Spain,
And she is one in a million for me.
I found my romance when she went dancing by,
And she must be a Castillian, si si!
Is she from Havana or Madrid?
But something about her
Is making me doubt her,
I think I remember the kid!
She’s a Latin from Manhattan,
I can tell by her manana.
She’s a Latin from Manhattan,
But not Havana!
Though she does a rumba for us,
And she calls herself Dolores,
She was in a Broadway chorus,
Known as Susie Donahue.
She can take her tambourine and whack it,
But the hurry’s jus a racket,
She’s a hoofer from Fifth Avenue!
She’s a Latin from Manhattan,
She’s a Forty Second Streeter,
She’s a Latin from Manhattan,
She’s a Latin from Manhattan,
Most people believe that music was better in the past, basically whenever they were 13. Because there is so much good music, I often believe them. But then I remember that Al Jolson was just about the biggest star of all for awhile. What the hell were people thinking?