Two University of Oklahoma students have apologized in the wake of a controversial racist fraternity video that surfaced online this week, sparking a national debate about the state of race in America.
The video surfaced online late Sunday, showing members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) singing a racist chant at a fraternity event, generating outrage far and wide. The university’s president on Monday expelled two students identified in the video and shuttered the doors of the fraternity.
The controversy didn’t end there. A 2013 Vine post of Beauton Gilbow, the longtime house-mother of the fraternity, suddenly went viral. In it, she is seen repeatedly singing the n-word to a rap song. Late Tuesday, two Black alumni of the fraternity rushed to defend Gilbow, known at the frat house as Mom B. While condemning her use of the n-word, William Bruce James II and Jonathon Davis tell CNN they do not believe her to be racist. They also said they did not experience overt racism as members of Oklahoma’s SAE chapter.
“That word needs to die,” James told CNN Tonight [about the n-word]. “With that being said, I don’t believe that Mom B. has hatred in her heart. I was there with her for four years. She took great care of me … she cared about me, she cares about my family. She had pictures of me, my wife, my children on the entryway table in that house. Mom B means a lot to me.”
Davis, the first Black member of the school’s SAE chapter, agreed.
“I wouldn’t even hesitate for a split second to say that Mom B. is undoubtedly not a racist,” Davis said.
“I see her as being caught up in the moment. She does like to mix it up socially, and she likes to have fun with the guys and their dates they bring over to the house. And I see this as maybe her getting caught away with the moment.”
UPDATED, 9:55 a.m. EST, 3-11-15:
Two students expelled from the University of Oklahoma for playing a “leadership role” in the SAE fraternity’s racist chant video that went viral have issued apologies, according to The Dallas Morning News.
One of the students, Parker Rice, 19, of Dallas, apologized in a statement released Tuesday by his father, Bob, saying the chant was taught to him as a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Brody and Susan Pettit issued an apology for their son, Levi, acknowledging that he made a mistake.
The Dallas Morning News reports:
“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.
The Pettits, also from the Dallas-area, defended their son:
“As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply,” says the statement, which has also been posted on this website. “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.”
Stay tuned for any further developments.