Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, a prominent human rights lawyer and senior counsel at LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense & Education Fund, has admitted to Prism's Tina Vásquez that she has been lying about her heritage for years and is in fact white. 

In a lengthy feature story, Vásquez reveals that Bannan has spent years taking positions, scholarships, internships and more by falsely claiming she was Latina. 

“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 told Vásquez when confronted about concerns that she was misrepresenting her heritage. She refused to answer questions about whether it was right for her to have taken so many opportunities from actual Latinx people. 

“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. Yet the Colombian family who I grew up with and who was responsible in grand part for raising me, who helped form my character and identity were from many different ethnic identities and backgrounds,” Bannan allegedly wrote in a 2016 Facebook post she shared with Vásquez. 

The story references another Facebook post that Bannan allegedly wrote on Monday, ahead of the article's publication, where she admits to being white and not telling the truth about her family.

That post is no longer on her Facebook page, but she took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon to go back on her admission, claiming the article was a "distortion." As of Friday, she has switched her Twitter account to private.

"An article recently published about me is a distortion of my story, my identity and my work. It includes misstatements and a narrative of who I am that is inaccurate. Those who I’ve been in struggle with know that & know me. It’s never been about me, but about the work," she wrote

Throughout the years, Bannan has given differing statements about her family and heritage. In some videos and interviews, she presents herself as Puerto Rican, in others, she said her family is from Colombia. 

She has written extensively on Latinx issues and has been featured widely on a number of platforms as an expert and commentator, particularly on sites like HuffPost and DemocracyNow.

In a video shared by her law firm, she speaks about "visiting family in Colombia" and says that salsa dancing was a "chance where I get to step away from being a lawyer and thinking heavily all day long about very serious issues and express myself in a very different, creative way and in a way that is very culturally-affirming and that connects me even deeper with my community and my culture and myself."

 

But through her investigation, Vásquez found that Bannan's maternal and paternal family was from Russia, Ireland and Italy. She herself wrote in court records that she was a non-Hispanic white person when she was 17 years old.