One of the University of Oklahoma fraternity members filmed leading a racist chant earlier this month publicly apologized Wednesday after meeting with local black leaders.
Levi Pettit was one of two students expelled from OU after video emerged of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members singing a chant that featured racist slurs and referenced lynchings. The fraternity chapter was shut down after the video became public.
"I am sorry, deeply sorry," Pettit told reporters in Oklahoma City. "I'm so sorry for all the pain that I caused. Although I don't deserve it, I want to ask for your forgiveness."
"I will be deeply sorry and deeply ashamed for what I have done for the rest of my life," he said.
Describing the incident as a "tragic failure with far-reaching consequences," Pettit said he will spend the rest of his life trying to make amends for the chant.
Pettit wouldn't comment on where he learned the chant, but said that after meeting with members of the black community he has come to fully understand the hurtful nature of his past words.
"I knew they were wrong, but I never knew how wrong or why they were wrong, and the people I have met with have opened my eyes," he said.
State Senator Anastasia Pittman said she and the other black community leaders with whom Pettit met accepted his apology.
"We have heard the sentiments of Levi Pettit and his family and we want to receive those sentiments," she said.
Isaac Hill, president of the OU Black Student Association, said University President David Boren was meeting Wednesday with all fraternities on campus to discuss racism.
Hill also accepted what he said was a "sincere apology."
"I hope we can use this as a teachable moment," he said.
Garland Pruitt, head of the NAACP's Oklahoma City chapter, said more needs to be done to teach African-American history across the country in order to combat racism.
In a statement released earlier this month, Levi's parents, Brody and Sudan Pettit, said they were "shocked and saddened" by his behavior.
"He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever," they said. "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."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.