It hit like a freight train on social media, just as news of the investigation into racially fraught incidents in Ferguson, Mo. and Selma were making national news, igniting outrage, horror, and concern.
The video was swiftly condemned by both the national head of SAE, which immediately closed the chapter and suspended all members, and the president of OU, who expelled two students Tuesday.
Brody and Susan Pettit, parents of one of the expelled students, wrote on a Web site late Tuesday that their son did a “disgusting” thing but that it shouldn’t define him:
“As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply. He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever. However, we also know the depth of our son’s character. 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. Our family has the responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our words will only go so far – as a family, we commit to following our words with deeds.”
Moments later, according to the Dallas Morning News, the other expelled student, who had been quickly identified on social media as Parker Rice, issued his own apology through his father, Bob Rice:
“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.“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.“At this point, all I can do is be thoughtful and prayerful about my next steps, but I am also concerned about the fraternity friends still on campus. Apparently, they are feeling unsafe and some have been harassed by others. Hopefully, the university will protect them.“Thank you for your consideration of my deepest apologies for what I did.”
The apology did not indicate who taught Rice and other fraternity members the chant, or why. SAE national fraternity leaders said in a statement that there is no ingrained racism, sexism or bigotry in anything the fraternity does.