The phenomenon of white women passing for different races for personal gain has been a demonstration of how Latinidad allows certain individuals the ability to claim the term, and how it largely benefits whites and mestizo elites, often excluding historically silenced Afro-Latinx voices.
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan’s case is no different. In claiming to be a Latina despite knowing she was born a white woman and using this in her professional persona as a lawyer, she played a role that was intended for Latinas. Bannan’s role, one could argue, is one that she had even more privilege to play because we often lack the representation and centering of Black and Indigenous voices as part of the Latinidad narrative.
Bannan’s claim to be a Latina comes from being raised in a home with a Colombian stepfather, leading her to believe that she felt more connected to the Latinx culture, and therefore, could claim it as her own lineage. In doing so, she dismisses that idea that her passing as a Latina is for her benefit and gain.
Claiming Latinidad is of benefit to those who are already accepted in the realm of Latinx culture. White passing Latinos, elites, and even white women like Bannan who have the ability to claim Latinidad are praised for their work whereas people who do not fit the mold of Latinidad (non-Christian/Catholic practicing, indigenous, Black, and speakers of dialects other than what is considered “proper” Spanish) are often marginalized in comparison.
While Bannan and other women who claim a “chosen culture” say this is how they are authentically showing up in the world, it leaves us asking – Is it truly authentic to show up as a culture of your choosing if you can walk away at any time and resume your regularly programmed caucausian life in all other spaces?
Bannan’s cosplay is not just wrong because it takes up space and opportunities for other Latinas. It also serves to underpin the idea that she is accepted into a culture that has largely centered on the white members of the Latinx community, one to this day that continues to marginalize indigenous and Black communities from the Americas.
Simply said, there is privilege to claiming the Latinx culture without being questioned about it. Afro-Latinas are constantly questioned about their Latinidad, while white women like Bannan can claim it without any further issues or questions. We must learn to give our Afro-Latina hermanas the spaces they deserve to take up, and allow for room to acknowledge the privilege of white-identifying Latinas to overcome it.
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