Levi Pettit Apologizes To Black Community For Racist Chant Sung On SAE Fraternity Party Bus — VIDEO
One of the expelled University of Oklahoma students — the SAE member who was most prominently featured in the video that caused outrage earlier this month — Levi Pettit apologized for the racist SAE chant that was sung on a bus headed to a fraternity party. In front of a room full of reporters, Pettit read a statement with several members of the black community, including Sen. Anastasia Pittman and Fairview Baptist Church Pastor J.A. Reed, standing behind him. Pettit said he was "deeply" sorry for the pain that he had caused and said he pledges to stand up against racism in the future. Pettit said of the words in the chant:
I think I knew they were wrong, but I never knew how or why they were wrong. And the people that I've met with ... have opened my eyes to really put meaning behind those words and the impact that people have when those words are said.
Prior to his public statement, Pettit said he met with members of the black community to personally apologize to "the community most directly impacted" before making a statement to the nation or the media, probably one of the most commendable actions he could have taken in this situation. The other student expelled for the chant, Parker Rice, previously apologized in a video, and Pettit's parents also released an apology for their son's behavior, calling his actions "disgusting," something Pettit now agrees with. As a reporter asked him where he learned the song, Pettit said that wasn't what he was here to talk about, but said:
I'm here to apologize for what I did because the truth is what was said in that chant is disgusting, and after meeting with these people and everybody else I've met with, I've learned that these words should never be repeated, joked about, or ever used in any form ever again, and these are lessons that I'm going to carry with me for the rest of my life.
Pettit said he understood why he was expelled from the university and expressed gratitude to President David Boren for accepting his apology. He said there are no excuses for his behavior and he now recognized that what he said was "mean, hateful, and racist." He further said that the reason he waited so long to apologize — aside from wanting to speak to the community first — was because he felt a mix of "pain, shame, sorrow, and fear over the consequences" for his actions.
After reading the prepared statement, Pettit took questions from the crowd, which had to have been one of the scarier parts of his speech. The first reporter to ask a question asked after the whole aftermath of the ordeal, what left the biggest impression on Pettit. He replied:
The people that I've met with have opened my eyes to things that I had not been exposed to leading up to this event. These stories and lessons and insight that they've shared with me is stuff that I will carry with for me for the rest of my life and use as tools to live a life that refutes any type of racist act from ever happening again.
Pettit, who had been visibly uncomfortable throughout the apology, was also asked about how many people were upset not just about what words were said, but how they were said, with a lot of laughter. "What were you thinking?" the reporter asked.
I'm not here to talk about what happened on the bus, everyone here and across the nation has seen what i've done. I'm here to apologize for what I did because .... this is something that I've learned is disgusting and should never happen again in any form.
Halfway through that answer, a man from the community of black leaders standing behind Pettit reached forward and put his hand on Pettit's shoulder, in a move that seems to symbolize they not only believe Pettit's apology, but they also are literally and figuratively standing behind him and will work with him in the future to heal the community. Pettit said:
All the apologies in the world won’t change what I have done, so I will spend the rest of my life trying to be the person who heals and brings people of all races together.
Further disciplinary action for the other students involved in the chant is still possible, but the Associated Press reported that the University of Oklahoma agreed no more fraternity members would be expelled. Watch Pettit's apology in full here:
Images: Getty Images (2)