Dear NLG Members,
Some of you may have seen this story:https://www.prismreports.org/article/2021/1/7/the-national-lawyers-guilds-outgoing-latina-president-is-a-white-woman
In October 2020, after getting word of Natasha’s identity misrepresentations, an independent group of BIPOC NLG members—both directly and indirectly harmed—formed to gather information and determine how to address this with intentionality. Last month, this group asked the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC)—a committee designed to help address structural and interpersonal racism and whiteness internally and externally, and led by white people taking cues from BIPOC members—was pulled into the process to concretize next steps. Yesterday, with the approval of the NLG’s Executive Council, an ad hoc committee has now officially formed. This committee is facilitated and bottom-lined by ARC at the behest of and with ongoing guidance from The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) leadership. We have asked this committee to draft a letter, see below, in response to the article, so that we may transparently communicate this process to the membership.
National Lawyers Guild Executive Council
The National Lawyers Guild is committed to racial justice internally and externally. In October 2020, BIPOC NLG members came together to address important issues stemming from the disclosure that former NLG president, Natasha Bannan, has been passing as a person of color and Latina in spite of being white and of European descent.
We acknowledge the harm that our fellow Guild members have experienced by Natasha’s acts regarding her identity–including her occupying space and taking up leadership for years within The United People of Color Caucus, a space created exclusively for people of color in the NLG.
We have spent a long and intentional period of time working to understand this particular case of misrepresentation. We understand that Latinx identity is nuanced, and we cannot unpack its complexity within this letter. Yet, we can say definitively that a lived experience as a member of a colonized community cannot be conjured by means of association, spirituality, choice, or performance.
We were preparing to engage in a confidential and internal process with Natasha alongside those who have been harmed to work towards acknowledgment of that harm and build a just accountability process. However, given that this issue has been made public in opposition to our intentions, we felt it important to inform the NLG membership of our process.
The Anti-Racism Committee, with consultation from members of TUPOCC, will invite Natasha to engage in an accountability process going forward that is rooted in our abolitionist principles and focused on addressing the harms she has caused, internally and externally, by claiming and performing a culture and ethnicity that are not hers and by taking up leadership space under the guise of being a person of color.
As abolitionists, we recognize that carceral logic, which prioritizes punishment and disposability over accountability and transformation, is harmful to everyone involved, and that it will do nothing to further the healing or reckoning process. We wish to navigate this conflict in ways that center the people harmed by Natasha’s actions without losing sight of Natasha’s humanity.
People of color in the Guild or our movement network who have been harmed by Natasha’s appropriation and wish to talk more about this accountability process may contact The United People of Color Caucus (TUPOCC) at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Anti-Racism Committee at email@example.com.
NOTE: A former version of this statement incorrectly stated that members first discussed this topic in “mid 2020.” That has since been corrected to October 2020.
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