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2 Oklahoma Students Seen In Racist Fraternity Video Apologize

University of Oklahoma students march to the now-closed Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house during a rally against racism Tuesday. Two former members of the fraternity have apologized for their roles in a video that showed them singing a racist chant.
Sue Ogrocki

Two men who were in a video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members singing a racist chant have apologized for their actions, with one of the now-former fraternity brothers saying he had learned "a devastating lesson."

The University of Oklahoma expelled two leaders of the chant Tuesday, without naming them publicly. The singing happened "as members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon rode in buses to a party at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club to celebrate the fraternity's founding," according to The Oklahoman.

The notorious video sparked a large campus rally against racism Monday; on Tuesday, students and others marched to the SAE house in another demonstration.

"We need to move beyond songs," senior Marquis Bell-Ard told the student newspaper, The Oklahoma Daily, at the demonstration. "Hopefully this leads to larger changes."

Both of the two former SAE members who issued apologies — Parker Rice, 19, and Levi Pettit, 20 — are from Texas; they attended high schools in the Dallas area.

Rice has been identified as one of the leaders of the chant by the Oklahoma Daily and other media outlets; his apology was published via the Dallas Morning News.

Here's an excerpt:

"I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same. On Monday, I withdrew from the university, and sadly, at this moment our family is not able to be in our home because of threatening calls as well as frightening talk on social media.

"I know everyone wants to know why or how this happened. I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the house before the bus trip, but that's not an excuse. Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn't work as an explanation. It's more important to acknowledge what I did and what I didn't do. I didn't say no, and I clearly dismissed an important value I learned at my beloved high school, Dallas Jesuit. We were taught to be 'Men for Others.' I failed in that regard, and in those moments, I also completely ignored the core values and ethics I learned from my parents and others."

Rice added, "For me, this is a devastating lesson and I am seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again. My goal for the long-term is to be a man who has the heart and the courage to reject racism wherever I see or experience it in the future."

Pettit's parents issued an apology on behalf of their entire family in a . They said their son "made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever."

More from their statement:

"He is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting. While it may be difficult for those who only know Levi from the video to understand, we know his heart, and he is not a racist. We raised him to be loving and inclusive and we all remain surrounded by a diverse, close-knit group of friends.

"We were as shocked and saddened by this news as anyone. Of course, we are sad for our son — but more importantly, we apologize to the community he has hurt. We would also like to apologize to the — entire African American community, University of Oklahoma student body and administration."

The Pettits wrote, "Our family has the responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation."

The separate apologies came on the same day that members of the disbanded fraternity chapter removed the last of their belongings from the house, which is now back under the university's direct control. The fraternity was closed by the national SAE organization Monday, when the school also cut its ties to the organization.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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