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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND licence.

The problem of Black exclusion within invention is not new, but now is a great time to address this problem in new ways. The invention and innovation community sits within a space of deep tension, as it calls for greater attention on the contributing factors resulting in a lack of racial and ethnic diversity while not fully reckoning with solutions that have already been proposed. In light of recent events, widespread video recordings of Black people being murdered and disproportionate fatalities during a global pandemic due to longstanding health care inequities, this renewed attention is welcomed but met with skeptical optimism. Building on prior discussions of the barriers constraining Black invention and innovation can help us achieve comprehensive and transformative action. We assert that racial equity within invention requires consideration of sociopolitical issues, such as urban divestment and inequitable schooling, as well as a reexamination of our insistence that invention be defined narrowly. One prophetic articulation of this dissonance is Gil Scott-Heron’s (1970) poem “Whitey on the Moon,” where Scott-Heron artistically critiques the preoccupation of the United States achieving a moon landing while rampant poverty causes daily suffering for so many on Earth. The invention and innovation community replicates this value structure, where some types of technological advancement are esteemed while technology advancement in the service of human suffering is under-supported. Radical change and vision are needed to welcome and support Black people throughout the invention ecosystem. We offer three ways that education can generate more racial diversity and facilitate equitable practice within invention and innovation.

Keywords: Racism; Innovation; Invention education; Black inventors

Appeared or available online: January 3, 2023

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