The Seven “What Matters” In a System Not Designed for Us

Tuesday September 29, 2020
  • DEI

In a recent episode of his award-winning show, “United Shades of America,” W. Kamau Bell interviews a Black man about systemic racism in America who said, “This country is not designed for us and, in fact, is designed against us.” As an African American, this observation triggered three critical questions.

• How do we thrive and excel in a country steeped in systemic racism—a society fundamentally designed against us rather than for us?
• More specifically, how do we cope, thrive, prosper, and strategically navigate organizational work cultures that do not fully embrace and may even be antagonistic to diversity and inclusion?
• For African Americans and individuals from other historically underrepresented groups, including women, to succeed in a nation marred by chaos and enormous uncertainty, what matters?

To answer these questions, I reflected on my forty-year career in higher education— most of it in graduate business education—and work with corporations on how shifting demographics are transforming the workforce, workplaces, and consumer markets. Based on insights gained from these experiences, I think there are seven specific “what matters” that African Americans and individuals from other historically under-represented groups, including women, must embrace to succeed in America moving forward—at least in the near term.


Johnson, J. (2020). The Seven "What Matters" In a System Not Designed for Us [White Paper]. Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.