Perhaps nobody was more shocked by the University of Oklahoma’s racist frat video than the black man who refers to the white fraternity members as his “family.”
Howard Dixon, 53, has worked as a chef at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house in Norman, Okla., for the past 15 years and said he looked forward to coming to work every day and being around the guys.
His house, he said, “is gone.”
“I think that was kind of stupid and selfish for them to do something like that,” Dixon told CBS. “And knowing this is an organization, and knowing this is an organization that’s supposed to be about brotherhood — that wasn’t no brotherhood.”
The chef’s plight has upset at least one former resident of the SAE house, who wrote on a crowdfunding page that Dixon “is going to lose his job because of a bus full of racist kids.” The fundraising effort started by Blake Burkhart has raised more than $55,000 since it was launched on Sunday — the same day the video went viral.
“Those of you who lived in the house, undoubtedly came to love Howard and his infectious smile (if not his chili dogs),” the page says. “He was always there to chat with you and more importantly, to take care of Mom B.”
It continues: “You know and I know that this isn’t the house we lived in. I’m positive Howard knows this, too.”
The video showed members of the fraternity chanting: “You can hang ’em from a tree, but it will never start with me/There will never be a n—– SAE.”
By order of the fraternity’s national organization and university president David Boren, SAE’s Norman chapter has been shut down.
“The crowdfunding site is an attempt to make the best of a bad situation and give Howard some financial stability while he is forced to look for a job due to circumstances outside of his control,
A second crowdfunding page, started by another SAE member who slammed the frat’s behavior, has raised more than $14,000 for the chef.
“Howard has been a hard-working and loyal employee for over 15 years, always making it in through rain, sleet and snow,” the page says. “He was one of my best friends during my time in the house, and my first thoughts are for him and his family. He has always been there for us and my heart is broken for him tonight.”
I went to an OU SAE tailgate one time, (had a great time) an i met that man howard, he grills a mean burger
— chris. (@chris_djohnson) March 9, 2015
Dixon said he was shocked by the video but stopped short of labeling the fraternity members racist.
“Well, those are new guys, those are new members, so I’m not really quite close to them because they just pledged,” he told CBS.
While he wasn’t willing to pass judgment on the hate-spewing students, he told CBS he felt betrayed. “We know people think like that,” he said, “but to be right here, looking at your face and eating your food … to do something like that, that was very shocking.”
Howard wasn’t the only employee who lost a job after the fraternity was shut down. Beauton Gilbow, the SAE house mother known as “Mom B,” told CBS she was shocked and “can’t imagine tomorrow.” But a day later, video of the 78-year-old spewing racial epithets surfaced online.
— OU Daily (@OUDaily) March 10, 2015
On Monday, Gilbow released a statement to KFOR apologizing for her actions:
I have been made aware of a video of me that is circulating on social media and in the news. I am heartbroken by the portrayal that I am in some way racist. I have friends of all race and do not tolerate any form of discrimination in my life. I was singing along to a Trinidad song, but completely understand how the video must appear in the context of the events that occurred this week.
In an interview with the local CBS affiliate, former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer — an honorary SAE member — broke down in tears discussing those left unemployed.
“I have known the house mother there more than 20 years,” Switzer said. “She has lost her job. It’s sad. People who make minimum wage in the cafeteria have lost their jobs.”