Counter-narratives and collegiate success of Black and Latinos


  • Kalen Nicole Russell Peabody Professional Student



Today’s college student is endowed with enormous pressure to succeed; to graduate within four years, to work part-time, to be involved in extracurricular activities, curate friendships, pursue internships, and maintain a competitive grade point average. These pressures can wreak havoc on the physical, mental, psychological, and emotional well-being of students. Eurocentric and patriarchal ideals shape American values and standards exacerbate the social pressures faced by minoritized groups who are already distanced from the status quo. The university campus is no exception to this exacerbation. College and university campuses can be viewed as microcosms of society; which means the same types of social discrimination, racial privileges, and racial oppression observable in the greater society are also observable on a university campus and influence peer-to-peer interactions, student self-perception, students’ relationship with professors, and ability to succeed.

College and university campuses that are comprised of a predominately White student body, with students of color comprising a smaller group, are often referred to as Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs).   While some PWIs strive to create a diverse and inclusive campus culture, many university campuses are deemed as unresponsive to the needs to racial minorities (Gomer & White). Unresponsive colleges and universities exhibit the effects of institutional racism: equating success with cultural conformity through campus culture, maintaining a racially homogenous faculty, and exclusionary practices which lead minorities to feel excluded, inferior, or forced to assimilate. In these environments, minorities are pressured to meet societal standards, assimilate and defy stereotypes which decreases their mental bandwidth and limits their capacity to learn and succeed on a university campus (Verschelden, 2017).

Institutional racism, which reduces the cognitive bandwidth of Black and Latino students, can be noted as a contributing factor to the discrepancies in retention and graduation rates of Blacks and Latino students compared to White students. Bandwidth can be reclaimed by decentering Whiteness and empowering marginalized students to define their own identities, name their own challenges, validate their own experiences, find community, and develop strategies to dismantle oppression through rejecting assimilation, cultural expectations, and master-narratives (Verschelden, 2017).  These efforts of resisting the assimilation and marginalization are collectively referred to as counter-narrative storytelling, a form of self-actualization which validates the identities, experiences, and capabilities of traditionally oppressed groups. Counter-narrative storytelling has historically been used to uplift and encourage minoritized groups through validating their identities, dismantling stereotypes and stereotype threat and by providing community by creating space for sharing commonalities between individual experiences. Counter-narrative storytelling can help empower marginalized individuals to set and achieve the goals they set for themselves personally, professionally, academically or otherwise.

Counter-narrative storytelling is grounded in Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT  provides a critical means of evaluating the relationships between the success of Black and Latino/a students and their ability to construct a counter-narratives and achieve collegiate success. CRT is referenced in the included research as it. CRT will also provide a framework for evaluating what university practices are most effective in promoting the success of Black and Latino students.

This paper will examine the influence of counter-narrative storytelling on the success collegiate success Black and Latino students at PWIs. The phrase “success” shall be operationalized to mean college retention, feeling included and supported within the university, and graduation from college. The referenced articles examine the experiences of Blacks and Latino/a students enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States and the influence counter-narrative storytelling had on their experience.




How to Cite

Russell, K. N. (2020). Counter-narratives and collegiate success of Black and Latinos. Iris Journal of Scholarship, 2, 74-85.



Research Articles