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Oklahoma Fraternity Member: Racist Chant Was 'Horrible Mistake'

  • Associated Press

University of Oklahoma students march to the now closed University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house during a rally in Norman, Okla., March 10, 2015.

University of Oklahoma students march to the now closed University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house during a rally in Norman, Okla., March 10, 2015.

A former University of Oklahoma fraternity member who was shown in a video chanting a racial slur has issued an apology, as have the parents of a second student.

In a statement Tuesday, former OU student Parker Rice called the incident caught on video "a horrible mistake" and "a devastating lesson" for which he is "seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again."

"I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night," Rice said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press by his father. "It was wrong and reckless."

'Horrible mistake'

Meanwhile, the parents of another student seen on the video, Levi Pettit, released a statement that said, "he made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever."

The apologies came after OU President David Boren expelled the two students who appeared to be leading the chant. He did not release their names. Boren said others involved would face discipline.

Civil rights leaders applauded the university's prompt and decisive action.

"Racism is alive and well in America and we need ongoing, continuing dialogue to address these concerns," Garland Pruitt, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), told reporters.

The fraternity members' chant referenced lynching and indicated black students would never be admitted to OU's chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Rice said in his statement that he withdrew from the university Monday. The statement from Pettit's parents did not address his status with the university.

Both Pettit and Rice are from Texas.

Rice said threatening calls to his family have prompted them to leave their North Dallas home. He said Saturday's incident was "likely was fueled by alcohol," 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,' " his statement said.

Pettit's parents, Brody and Susan Pettit, said in a statement posted online that their son "is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting." The Pettits apologized "to the entire African-American community (and) University of Oklahoma student body and administration."

'Not my brothers'

William Bruce James II, one of the Oklahoma fraternity's few black members, said the SAE chapter there had undergone a cultural change since he was a student there, from 2001 to 2005.

"The guys in that video are not my brothers," he told CNN. He said he never got an inkling of the offending song when he was a student.

Also Tuesday, Beauton Gilbow, the fraternity's "house mom," issued a statement that addressed a video from 2013 showing her repeating a racial slur as music plays in the background.

Gilbow said she was singing along to a song. She said she was "heartbroken" by the portrayal that she was racist but understood how the video must appear in the context of the week's events.

A "house mom" is a housing director who might oversee staff and finances at a sorority or fraternity house.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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