Black Lives Matter

Our lives are at risk. The health care system — and everyday individuals — have to do a better job to protect us.

Kareem Abdul-Jabaar speaks during "Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Effort"
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Photo: BET2020 / Getty Images

My life is at risk. Not just because I’m 73 with the usual annoying aches and pains that accompany age, but because I’m tall and I’m Black. At 7 feet, 2 inches, I’m statistically more prone to blood clots, lower back and hip problems, higher risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer, atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder), and a shorter life span in general. Being Black means I’m more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cancer, and a shorter life in general. Yup, tall people and Black people have shorter life expectancies. So far, in keeping with these statistical risks, I’ve had prostate cancer, leukemia, and heart bypass surgery.

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. I’m also lucky that one of my sons is an orthopedic surgeon and another is a hospital administrator. Dad gets to nag them for medical advice whenever he wants. But while I’m grateful for my advantages, 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.”

Not just from the diabetes, heart problems, obesity, and cancer that we as a group are prone to, but from a wide spectrum of health threats built into the foundation of American society as solidly as steel girders holding up a bridge. Most people know this is true, though some will deny it because they fear removing those rusty girders will cause the whole bridge to collapse. The truth is that those girders are already malignant with rust and will eventually collapse if we don’t address the underlying rot of systemic racism. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge has 200 ironworkers, electricians, and painters who daily maintain the bridge’s integrity. If we want America to maintain its cultural integrity, we need to fix its structural flaws — and we need to do so on a daily basis.

Continue reading the full post at WebMD.