Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been through some serious health scares but he still considers himself luckier than most other Black men.
In a new essay written for WebMD, the 73-year-old NBA legend revealed that along with a previously reported battle with leukemia and undergoing heart bypass surgery, he has also survived a prostate cancer diagnosis.
“I’ve been fortunate because my celebrity has brought me enough financial security to receive excellent medical attention. No one wants an NBA legend dying on their watch. Imagine the Yelp reviews,” he wrote, adding that he also has two sons working in medicine.
“But while I’m grateful for my advantages,” he continued, “I’m acutely aware that many others in the Black community do not have the same options and that it is my responsibility to join with those fighting to change that. Because Black lives are at risk. Serious risk.”
Abdul-Jabbar warned that the collapse of American society could be at hand “if we don’t address the underlying rot of systemic racism.”
“The more insidious and damaging threat to the health, lives, and economic well-being of Black Americans is a health care system that ignores the fact that, though they are most in need of medical services, they actually receive the lowest level.”
The former basketball player and commentator wrote that more diverse representation in all areas of society is necessary to combat these issues.
“More Black teachers, jurors, and doctors—that’s our daily maintenance,” he said. “Athletes kneeling during the national anthem, social media banning hate posts, politicians and celebrities condemning racist speech, police not profiling based on race, companies committing to financially supporting organizations fighting racism—that’s our daily maintenance.”
Meanwhile, Abdul-Jabbar has teamed up with UCLA Health as an ambassador, “to reach out to the Black community to make sure they were receiving the medical and health information that could save their lives, just as it had saved mine.”
“The future of equity for Black Americans starts with physical and mental health, and as long as they are at the end of the line for services, true equity can’t happen. Black lives have to matter in every aspect of American society if they are to thrive.”