By Ira Rose-Kim
A video depicting members of the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity participating in a racist chant was met with outrage upon its release on to the internet. The chant included the lines “There will never be a nigger in SAE” and “You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me,” implying that a lynching would be preferred over an African-American’s entrance into the fraternity. Needless to say, the video did not sit well with the general public. The SAE fraternity closed the university of Oklahoma chapter and suspended most of its members. Shortly afterwards, the University of Oklahoma shut the fraternity house down altogether and expelled the two members believed to have been the chant’s leaders.
Parker Rice, one of the alleged leaders of the chant, issued an apology. rice was identified by his former high school, the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. 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,” Rice admitted. He also mentioned how he had withdrawn from the University of Oklahoma and at the moment, he was unable to safely live in his home due to the influx of threatening messages he began to receive after he was identified in the video. rice added, “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.”
The other supposed leader, Levi Pettit, has yet to make any sort of statement, although his parents already have. They acknowledged his actions were “disgusting,” yet also defended him. “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,” they argue. Pettit’s family’s spokesperson has revealed that they will not be saying anything else about the incident in the near future.
While the fact that the video was racist is undeniable, it has sparked other debates. When the University of Oklahoma closed down the fraternity house and expelled Rice and Pettit, some claim that racist speech fell within the students’ constitutional rights and it could not be the basis for such a harsh punishment. Many still believe that the school was in the right for punishing the students. Lawyer Stephen Jones was hired to represent the SAE chapter “to protect the due process rights, the first amendment rights, and the 14th Amendment rights” of the fraternity’s members. Jones noted he wasn’t going to rule out a lawsuit and he felt that the school could’ve taken a more “measured” response to the incident. As time passes, more and more news outlets, like gawker.com, have begun to explore SAE’s arguably racist past which will surely come into play as events surrounding the video continue to unfold.