Schoolyard bullying is a day-to-day reality for many of the world’s most vulnerable children. In the United States alone, 17% of students are currently being bullied. So it was unsurprising that a heartbreaking video of one of these children went viral this weekend.
The video was of 11-year-old Keaton Jones, who asked his mom to pick him up at school because he didn’t want to face his bullies in the cafeteria. In the video, the teary-eyed boy questions all bullies, asking them why they chose to make other people’s lives a misery. “Just out of curiosity, why do they bully?” Keaton, who is from Knoxville, Tennessee, asked. “What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them. It’s not okay.”
“I don’t like that they do it to me and I for sure don’t like that they do it to other people because it’s not okay. People that are different don’t need to be criticized about it. It’s not their fault. If you are made fun of just don’t let it bother you. Stay strong.”
Keaton’s mom, Kimberly, proceeded to post the video on Facebook to draw attention to her son’s plight. It didn’t take long for the video to go viral, and, before she decided to remove it from the social media website, it had amassed over 20 million views. The video was subsequently posted across a number of other social media platforms, and some of the biggest celebrities in the world decided to reach out to Keaton, offering him their friendship and lucrative tickets to movie premieres and sporting events. Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown wrote, “Keaton, this is so accurate. Why do people do this? I think [you’re] sooo cool Keaton! I wanna be your friend (but srsly) ur freakin awesome.” While actor Chris Evans wrote, “Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this word, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premier?” A member of the public, Joseph Lam, who did not personally know Keaton and his family also made the decision to set up a GoFundMe for the young boy, and people were quick to offer their support on the website too, raising almost $60,000 for him. Following the overwhelming response Keaton’s video received, his mom Kimberly took to Facebook to thank people for their kindness, writing, “I’m humbled by the voice my boy has been given, but he’s still just a little boy, [and] he’s a little boy who desperately wants acceptance, that I have to try to find a way to navigate him through the difference in true acceptance & attention.” However, it has now emerged that this seemingly heartwarming story may not have been a simple case of good triumphing over evil. The attention the viral video brought to the family prompted many people to go through Kimberly’s Facebook profile, and it didn’t take long for them to find a controversial photograph of family members alongside a Confederate flag – a symbol of white supremacy. “Dear butt hurt Americans,” Kimberly Jones wrote. “If you aren’t bleeding, no bones are sticking out & you can breathe, STOP crying! For the love, some folks clearly never picked a switch. And before y’all start talking to me about metaphorical, emotional, financial or historical blood & brokenness, don’t. Join a group.” “Keaton Jones MOM is a next level racist who’s posted in many offensive and non-remorseful comments towards black people, so how is she preaching about bullying when she herself is a bully,” Twitter user Queen Mel wrote. Following the discovery of the photograph, people began to condemn Keaton’s mom, and Joseph Lam decided to shut down the GoFundMe page which he had created for the family in light of the controversy it caused. “As I sit back and read these comments and watched the video again I feel I have to make this update,” Lam wrote. “THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MOM!! However, passing judgment on her before you know her is a form of bullying.” This controversy was fueled by a rumor that Keaton was being bullied in the first place because he had used the N-word at school. In fact, the racist photographs of his family were reportedly unearthed by someone who claimed that Keaton had repeatedly called another child the N-word. But perhaps most controversially, screenshots of an alleged conversation between Keaton’s mom and MMA fighter Joe Schilling emerged. In which, she appears to turn down his offer of free tickets to a match and asks for money instead, before making additional racist remarks. Keaton’s sister Lakyn, however, has rubbished these screenshots and said that they were sent from a fake account pretending to Kimberly. She also made a point of saying that Keaton’s family did not set up the GoFundMe and were not looking to profit financially from the story. It didn’t take long for celebrities who had supported Keaton to hear about the controversy his mom had caused, and some made a point of openly condemning Kimberly on social media for her views. Orange Is The New Black actor Nick Stevenson Tweeted, “This is in response to my offering Saturday night regarding Keaton Jones bullying which touched a nation and in a fit of happiness the world was good.” “If what I’m hearing about his mother’s racism is true-shame on you #KimberlyJones. I’m still #KeatonStrong but #racism isn’t on.” Whilst defending her family, Lakyn made a point of saying that the Confederate flag did not make her family racist, writing, “I am from the south. You’ll see a million flags like that. Doesn’t mean we are racist.” Kimberly’s Facebook has now been made completely private. However, people remain outraged on social media that an apparently racist person would have a problem with her son being bullied by others whilst holding discriminatory views herself. Regardless of whether the racist claims against Keaton and his family are true or not, no one can deny that bullying is wrong, and the attention Keaton’s video received serves as proof that people are united against this senseless act. The widespread condemnation of Keaton’s family for seemingly being racist also reveals that people will not stand for any form of discrimination. If you would like to make your stance on bullying known during the holiday season, you can donate to organizations which aim to help countless children including the Stop Bullying Foundation and the It Gets Better Project. Until all of the facts have emerged about Keaton and his family, it is best to bear Lam’s words in mind, “Condemnation before [an] evaluation is the ultimate form of ignorance. [We] can’t even say for sure that any of what’s being said is true.”