“Making Sense of the Senseless”

Dear Campus Community,

Staff members in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Intercultural Center, the LGBTQ Center, and the Women’s Center join our colleagues in extending our support in light of this weekend’s events.

We deeply grieve the loss of Najee Ali Baker. Baker was a student at Winston-Salem State University, a member of the Rams football team, and a physical education major.  We honor the immensity of his life by offering our thoughts and prayers to his loved ones during this difficult time. We often seek to make sense of senseless things. There is no place for the senseless act of violence that led to his untimely death. We intend to continue helping all in our community value and understand one another in the days and weeks to follow.                 

Unfortunately, in the midst of this tragedy, a video of a student using a racial epithet targeted at a Black Resident Advisor surfaced. Any actions that further hatred and bigotry are completely unacceptable. The student in the video is no longer enrolled at Wake Forest, and yet we know their behavior will have a lasting impact. To that end, we want to affirm our Black students and others affected. Our concern for you emboldens our efforts to shape Wake Forest into a place that fosters the dignity and respect of all its citizens.

Today as you return to your classes and workspaces, you may go on as though nothing happened or you may feel compelled to offer support for yourself and others.  You also may or may not feel equipped to do so.  While there are seemingly endless resources about grief and loss, none of them offer total relief. Here are some suggestions for helping you navigate the impact of these unsettling events:

  • Educate yourself and encourage those who are not aware of what transpired to learn more here about recent events, rather than seeking out or questioning students directly or indirectly impacted.
  • Open your classes, meetings, and workday with a moment of silence for Najee Baker, his family, and our community.  You didn’t have to know him to acknowledge that his life mattered.
  • Encourage dialogue. Listen and validate feelings. Suspend your judgment. Ask questions without isolating people of color and others by assuming the impact of the experience or that their experience is representative of their entire identity.
  • Allow people to process in their own way and in their own time.  Do not force people to share their experience or to accept your support.
  • Refer students, faculty, and staff who need additional support to the campus resources mentioned here.
  • Commit to empathizing with the range of emotions that are often triggered by grief and loss including, but not limited to shock, pain, anger, depression, fear, and guilt.

While this list is not a substitution for the resources or recommendations made available to members of our community, we hope that it will serve as a reminder of how we can all contribute to a healing collective. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”  As our community prepares to commemorate his life and legacy, please remember the creation of the beloved community that he so often described is the responsibility of us all.


The Extended Diversity and Inclusion Team