Basketball legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lent his unique voice to the commentary regarding reality TV and racism in America. Recently, the six-time NBA champion aimed at Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise and the women who are blatantly racist on the show. Abdul-Jabbar specifically focused on The Real Housewives of New York City star Ramona Singer.
The former NBA center used his writing to describe how, despite its shortcomings, reality TV is educating Americans when it comes to racism in the 21st century.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA career and what he does currently
The Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree won three NCAA titles at UCLA before playing for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar amassed 44,149 points by the time he retired in 1989, as Basketball-Reference reports. His scoring record stood until 2022 when Lebron James surmounted it.
Following his celebrated NBA career, Abdul-Jabbar became a social justice activist as both a person of color and a Muslim. The now-75-year-old is also a bestselling author, award-winning narrator, writer, advocate, and producer.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s take on reality TV and racism
Abdul-Jabbar notes that viewers can learn about racism by watching reality TV because schools don’t properly teach racism and tolerance. He starts with Survivor.
“An African American woman addressed… the emotional toll [Survivor] took on players of color. Her tearful comments and the reactions of the others, Black and White, provided one of the most authentic and moving moments in reality television history — and a genuine lesson on the subtle nuances of race relations in America.”
This occurred in late April 2022 on Survivor 42. The first two members voted off were people of color, as Abdul-Jabbar addressed in his Substack writing. Maryanne Oketch, a Canadian, won the competition. She became the second Black woman to do so.
In 2021, the first Black lead on The Bachelor, Matt James, broke off his engagement with Rachael Kirkconnell after the media published photos of her participating in an Antebellum South party in college three years before the show. ABC fired host Chris Harrison fired shortly thereafter when he publicly defended Kirkconnell.
Abdul-Jabbar explores Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives’ and casual racism
In a recent Substack article, Abdul-Jabbar gave commentary on the Real Housewives franchise and its hypocrisy in dealing with casual racism.
Addressing RHONY‘s Ramona Singer, the NBA star called her “the most self-obsessed, self-deluded, insensitive, smug, and socially unaware housewife of all the franchises. She is the Ben Shapiro of housewives.”
This was after a reunion show was canceled in 2021 because Singer was accused of making racist comments. Abdul-Jabbar pointed out the hypocrisy that, somehow, Singer was allowed to stay on the show for 13 seasons despite her “enlightened non-racist” attitudes, calling her a “benchmark for casual racism.” Singer also supported “all lives matter” in 2020 amid Black Lives Matter protests.
When activist and attorney Eboni K. Williams joined as the first Black housewife on RHONY, Singer got in hot water for allegedly saying, “This is why we shouldn’t have black people on the show.”
Racism involving people of color on ‘Real Housewives’
Yet, as the basketball legend points out, when Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics say racist things on Real Housewives, the ratings drop. Bravo either fires those women or they exit soon after.
Abdul-Jabbar states that Real Housewives of Salt Lake City showed much promise with the most diverse cast yet. But Jennie Nguyen was fired in 2021 when online outrage followed the discovery of her Facebook posts. She’d called Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs” among several other concerning statements and memes. Mary Crosby, a Black church leader in Salt Lake City, left the show after making racist comments about her Asian and Hispanic co-stars.
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills entered the racist domain when Crystal Kung Minkoff. The Asian American cast member asked fellow housewife Sutton Stracke, “Are you one of those people that you don’t see color?” Stracke was seemingly speechless, then recovered with an affirmative response.
Even Real Housewives franchises that seem to embrace diversity can’t escape racism. NeNe Leakes is suing Bravo and NBC for ignoring rampant racism from Kim Zolciak-Biermann, a former RHOA co-star, as the LA Times reports.
The Lakers icon eloquently summed up reality TV, with soft-spoken and powerful words: “Some people are quick to dismiss reality TV, but there is no denying that right now, they are boldly going where conservatives fear to go. And America is having conversations about race that are necessary for us to thrive — all of us.”