KB, Critical Race Theory, and the King From Nazareth: Voices from the Southside
In a recent Rapzilla interview, I sat down with KB to discuss his podcast, music, and concern for social justice, which presently is a contentious topic within some Christian circles. The focus of the interview was to explore how KB’s podcast and music challenge the church and hold the body of Christ accountable in matters of injustice.
Watch the interview at the bottom.
As the conversation moved along, KB voiced his concern for speaking on behalf of the oppressed, challenged the evangelical crusade against critical race theory (CRT), and placed Christ at the center of the conversation on social justice. In what follows, I provide a summary of the interview, beginning with KB’s podcast.
The podcast “Southside Rabbi” first appeared in 2019. The show is hosted by a dynamic duo—Kevin “Elijah Smooth” Burgess, otherwise known as KB, and Ameen “the Dream” Hudson. It is nothing short of entertaining, and the podcast is rife with comedic relief. From Ameen’s Black preacher alter ego, Pastor Show-n-Go, to KB’s opening freestyle introductions, the podcast contains a level of humor that can brighten any listener’s day. But the podcast is far more than mere entertainment. It is altogether engaging.
Presently consisting of 22 episodes, KB and Ameen address varying topics, and the subjects of racism, social justice, and the present church divide spurred on by political preference are prominent discussion points.
But the podcast is more than a mere platform for expressing an opinion, and KB shared his and Ameen’s goal for the podcast in the interview. According to KB, “We attempt to be a voice for the oppressed voices from the Southside.”
In identifying the importance of intersectionality—a theoretical lens developed by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw for understanding a person’s social location based upon a number of factors including race, gender, and class—KB affirmed the need to see the lowest in society as people “actually suffering under the societal ills of oppression” rather than as a mere “pawn” for winning a debate. KB went on to share that “what we want to do on Southside Rabbi is to acknowledge the conversation, but our goal is to move past it to help the actual person.” As he summed it up, “It’s like you’re hearing it from the horse’s mouth in the interest of the horse, not [in the] interest [of] the conversation or the debate.”
Unfortunately, though, many Christians are more concerned with the debate than with the actual person suffering, and Christian perceptions of social justice and critical race theory work to produce sharp divisions between many believers. When asked about the current Christian crusade attempting to dismantle social justice, KB responded by saying, “I am not holding any punches anymore when it comes to this conversation, because it’s literally a work of the enemy. It’s gaslighting brothers and sisters to make them think that somehow they don’t have a grip on reality.”
As of recent, some conservative-leaning Christians have developed an antisocial justice apologetic to dismiss the social justice conversation as irrelevant or unbiblical at best and as threatening and anti-Christian at worst. In the interview, KB mentioned that a recent prominent evangelical pastor declared from his pulpit that “he hasn’t seen anything worse than critical race theory in his entire life.” Even though that same pastor lived through Jim Crow, segregated schools, and the Vietnam War, apparently nothing was more condemning than CRT.
Other pastors have engaged the battle against social justice more thoroughly and vehemently. Voddie Baucham Jr., the author of the recently published book Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, attempts to dismiss the social justice movement, casting it as dangerous and destructive to the church. As KB describes it, the book is “laughable, until I saw that there is a massive wave of my—majority Caucasian brothers and sisters—believing it. Then it becomes dangerous.”
When describing the faults in Baucham’s work and the movement it is presently producing, KB points out the sheer absurdity of its sentiment and how it encourages Christians to overlook the least among us. According to KB, “When Voddie Baucham talks about the most valued among us he casts them as the most oppressed.”
In step with this logic, having the least somehow means that you have the most in life. KB finds this thinking unreasonable as it dismisses the very people who are actually suffering: “Why in the world are you criticizing the woman who is a single mother, Black, on welfare? Why are you trying to help people ignore that woman? Why are we attempting to get her voice silenced?” These theoretical debates that Christians engage work in reality to suppress the voices of the marginalized.
The ‘Christian’ mission to stamp out wokeism, CRT, and social justice, according to KB, stems from hasty rhetoric that ignores real engagement with actual ongoing problems that extend beyond the events of 2020. As KB asserts,
“At the bottom of all of this is that in order to get away from doing the deep work of introspection, the study of history, laboring with the messiness of the society, being wrong and repenting and beginning again—in order to avoid the heavy lifting of all that stuff—what people have always done is that they map all their problems onto somebody else and that somebody else becomes their enemy, their target. They are the incarnation of everything that is wrong, and then you feel good about attacking that while ignoring yourself. That’s exactly what is happening right now.”
In addition to propping up a strawman in the attempt to blow away social justice as mere foolishness, Christians—in their fight against CRT—have simultaneously diminished Christ according to KB.
As he stated in the interview, “Many white evangelical leaders have moved away from the gospel and pursued a crusade against CRT. But in [so] doing, they have left out Jesus.”
He goes on to explain that these same Christians have given minimal attention to the actual issues and are now looking to leaders outside the Christian community for guidance, “You have dudes that have just started interacting with this stuff, just started reading some articles, just even thought about this at all that are now trying to lead the charge, and it’s so sad that you’re literally pulling in atheists.”
In addition to atheists, Christians have also heavily relied on other thinkers outside the faith to understand CRT and the social justice movement, “Ben Shapiro does not know Jesus at all and denies the resurrection, Peterson, Candence Owen, Fox—you are pulling in people who want nothing to do with the gospel as your primary sources,” KB stated.
While many Christians find argumentative footing on the reasoning of non-Christian thinkers, KB asserts the centrality of Christ in the discussion on social justice. As he contends, “All of this comes down to who is Jesus? Who is God? What type of God is he?”
Immediately following this question, KB turned his attention to Acts 2, wherein Peter refers to Jesus—the resurrected Messiah, conqueror of sin, death, and the grave—as one coming from Nazareth. KB points out that “we always forget that passage that says nothing good comes from Nazareth. And now Jesus is the resurrected, ascended son of God from Nazareth forever. What does that say about who Jesus is?”
According to KB:
“It says that Jesus truly is who he said he was when he said I have come to proclaim good news to the poor and the oppressed, to free the captive, to be with the least of these…. Where does Jesus identify with the rich and powerful? I am not saying that he doesn’t love the rich and powerful…. God is constantly identifying himself as a defender of the poor, one who is bringing good news to those who are on the outside, a father to the fatherless. That is how he identifies himself.”
For KB, the conversation around social justice is far more than a mere discussion; it is a living reality that begins and ends with the person of Christ. As KB understands it, Jesus is the eternal savior who deeply cares for the marginalized and oppressed. Jesus stands with the least of these, advocates for the fatherless, comforts the outcasts and opposes the proud. Stated with passion and zeal, KB articulates that “the Negro is always asking, all through American history: DOES. GOD. CARE. ABOUT. ME.”
The answer to that question is neither found in the arguments of the Black progressives or the rhetoric of the white evangelicals. Black humanity is affirmed in the only one true King, Jesus, the savior who transcends all classes and categories and is yet always found communing with the lowly, the humble, the oppressed. This is Jesus, the one from Nazareth. If you are interested to hear more from KB, then tune in to Southside Rabbi and hear what this Black intellectual, rapper, and teacher has to say.