January 12, 2021 — In response to news regarding former Board Member Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan’s racial/ethnic identity, the Board of Trustees of Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
During the Center for Constitutional Rights’ 55 years of work partnering with communities fighting for social justice, we have been steadfast in our political commitment to centering the experiences and struggles of communities and individuals most directly impacted by systemic oppression, particularly white supremacy.
With this fundamental political value in mind, we learned last week that Center for Constitutional Rights Board Member Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan has been accused of misrepresenting her racial/ethnic identity. Natasha has since voluntarily stepped down from the Board of Trustees, and her resignation has been accepted. Natasha has been widely recognized for her work, and we acknowledge that there is an ongoing debate within the Latinx social justice community on the question of Natasha’s identity. That said, we are less focused on how people choose to identify than on the harm that results from that choice. Given our fundamental commitment to centering the experiences and perspectives of communities of color, we must acknowledge those harms as a starting point.
Upon learning of Natasha’s background, many Latinx people and members of the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities have expressed deep betrayal and injury that representing herself as Latina, Natasha applied for and was awarded opportunities, such as fellowships, grants, and leadership positions that were intended for Latinx people. Further, the impact of choices like these is compounded for Black, Afro and Indigenous Latinx people, many of whom shoulder the gravitational force of anti-Blackness on a daily basis. As Professors Hilda Lloréns and Zaire Dinzey-Flores describe it, “it is often easier for a White woman from Kansas or Georgia to be accepted as Latina, than it is for actual Black and Afro-Latinxs.”
Restorative justice principles counsel that we all acknowledge both that people are so much more than their worst behaviors, and that engaging the harms and questions of accountability with members of the many Latinx communities will be an essential first step in addressing and repairing this breach.
Finally, the Center for Constitutional Rights remains committed to accounting for the ways in which racism, particularly anti-Blackness and forms of white supremacy have manifested themselves in our own culture and work. We continue to explore how the privileges and power of whiteness impact issues of identity, representation, appropriation, cultural capital, and the (mis)allocation of scarce resources to BIPOC communities.
We approach this work collectively, motivated by a value of calling each other into, rather than out of, a process that seeks to reaffirm and strengthen our collective work to build not just a fair, but a just world.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.