book with paper boat palm trees comic sky and three people telling stories

Critical Race Theory and Counter-storytelling in the Sciences

Critical Race Theory and Counter-storytelling have been used in many fields including law, education, history, LGBTQ studies, Latino studies, and Asian studies. When thinking about the field of science, you might be wondering: why would a scientific research study be interested in critical race theory (CRT) and counter-storytelling? Is the counter-storytelling method used by scholars like Alemán and Nuñez applicable to science? Although many authors who use CRT speak to issues within fields such as Journalism, legal studies, and history it is possible and necessary to integrate these methods into the sciences. Science is constantly affecting and interacting with individuals and communities. Furthermore, many issues that science research tackles, like environmental justice and sustainability, disproportionately affect minoritized communities. Critical Race Theory can keep researchers from assuming that Science is detached from race and racial issues. Counter-storytelling can help bring community voices and knowledge into the field of science, thus creating a fountain of ample perspectives, ideas, and realities which can come together to find solutions to scientific questions.

To give an example, let’s look at the role of CRT and counter-storytelling in the NOISE project. Our project examines equitable collaborations between dominant culture science institutions and independent community organizations through a co-created citizen science project surrounding Noise Pollution. By engaging with Critical Race Theory and counter-storytelling we can better understand the power dynamics at play which make these collaborations inequitable and challenging. If our project was built solely from the perspectives of academics, researchers, and scientists, then we would be missing an enormously valuable source of community knowledge on issues of equity. Afterall, if community organizations are the ones who are at the receiving end of inequitable scientific practices, then it isn’t a stretch to think that equitably listening to their wisdom would create a more complete scientific process. Furthermore, counter-storytelling falls right in line with our Community Working Agreements! The values outlined in this agreement such as “Let other speak for themselves”, “Practice deep listening and empathic speech”, and “Speak your truth” are at the core of our project. What better way to live these values than to create counterstories that engage, uplift, and validate the realities and narratives of individuals and communities. It is imperative for the future of the scientific field that researchers studying or working with community issues align themselves with CRT and recognize the value, knowledge, and wisdom that communities hold.  Click here to see an example of counter-storytelling being used within research!