Liberatory Computing for African American Students (Awarded Best Position Paper)

Walker, R., Sherif, E., & Breazeal, C. (2022). Liberatory computing education for African American students. 2022 Conference on Research in Equitable and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT), 85–89.


The underrepresentation of minoritized groups, particularly African Americans, is the longstanding reality of computing fields. Computing has the opportunity to change the world and is increasingly being incorporated into our daily lives. Computing classes discuss computing as abstract, neutral, utopian, and unable to cause harm. While everyone needs to be part of the process of ending a multi-layered system of barriers, we focus specifically on why this goal is of particular relevance to African American students. We highlight Dr. El-Amin’s “liberation tools” , which state how a sound racial identity, critical consciousness, liberation centered achievement identity, collective obligation, along with activism skills are essential to preparing African Americans to “fight for” racial liberation. Given that computing classes teach students critical thinking skills to solve complicated problems, we argue that computing is well-positioned to incorporate “liberation tools”. Liberation tools teach students how to think in terms of systems, which is essential for racial liberation. By expanding the liberation tools, we coin the term, “liberatory computing”, to reveal how computing curricula can motivate and provide African American students with practical skills to address the racism embedded in society. 

Related Content