Wake Foresters consider themselves “for humanity” as our revered motto indicates. At our best, the campus acts as a community which cares, learns about each other and holds virtue, flourishing and individuality in high esteem.
Last Friday, Jan. 20, our community lost a young man with an amazing and extraordinary life ahead of him. What happened to Najee Baker is truly tragic, and I extend my most sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and all those who feel damaged by his loss in the Winston-Salem State and Wake Forest communities.
This event struck me very deeply. To know that less than a mile from my residence, a place I consider my home, an act of brutal violence occurred and the loss of an individual transpired is very shaking. We all value our ability to function as a unified community on campus, and to lose someone that we welcome into our community — whether it is for a few hours or a few years — is extremely tragic and ought to be mourned properly.
Yet, only one of my six professors took a moment in class last week to address Baker’s untimely demise. The common dialectic on campus in social spaces centered around the standard small talk following Mr. Baker’s death — recent Greek life functions, sports, et cetera. It appeared that the loss of a human life was minimized in much of the Wake Forest community to a point of indifference. Are we truly “for humanity” if we cannot recognize the loss of a human life beyond the novelty of it? Some sentiments around campus reduce Mr. Baker’s death to another instance of black-on-black violence, which is inhuman, disingenuous and reviling.
Frankly, the racial or scholastic identity of Mr. Baker or his murderers is not pertinent to the fact that we witnessed a loss of a human being. Insofar as this is true, instead of intellectualizing, politicizing or classifying his death, like the piece in OGB earlier this week did in reduction of control did, let us come to together as a community to feel. While I do agree that better agenda of gun legislation ought to be pursued in this country, politicizing the death of someone who was loved and endeared to many so quickly after his death is tone-deaf.
Healing for our communities at Winston-Salem State and Wake Forest takes time, and the processing of the facts of Mr. Baker’s murder take time. A knee-jerk diatribe on gun legislation is not a way to properly appreciate the gravity of the fact that a human life was lost on our campus.
My intention in writing this is to show others that it should not matter what one’s identity is on this campus when we face the fact that a tragedy happened. It should not be the case that only the minority communities on campus feel this death deeply. No special license, no Wake Forest bubble. In recent years, it has become clear that our campus is quite divided along racial lines, and this could be the cosmic event that unites us all in deep empathy for this terrible occurrence.
As Wake Foresters, we care about each other. We care about humanity. Any loss of life is a travesty and we need to build ourselves back up from that loss. Let us all try to make something beautiful out of a tragedy. We need to come together as people, with feelings and brokenness, and build each other up, regardless of what we look like or who we are.