On December 8th, a video of tearful 11-year-old Keaton Jones went viral. The video, in which Keaton Jones expressed his woes with bullying, ignited a wave of support from as many as 20 million empathetic viewers in the days following the original post. In the short span of two days, the video gained the attention of countless celebrities and notable figures such as Stranger Things star, Millie Bobby Brown, pop stars Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato, rapper Snoop Dogg, basketball star LeBron James, and even Bernice King, daughter of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
However, as quickly as Keaton Jones’ plea to end bullying reached the attention of so many famous celebrities, so did news of his affiliation with racist ideologies due to an Instagram post shared by his mother, Kimberly Jones. In the photo, their family can be seen proudly posing with a confederate flag. This new development in Keaton Jones’ story has caused a lot of his supporters, who at one point declared #IStandWithKeaton, to backpedal on those declarations and delete their original support posts on social media.
In a Good Morning America segment, Kimberly Jones attempted to explain her actions on social media, which included offensive photos with the confederate flag and an exchange between herself and MMA fighter Joe Schilling. Schilling was originally going to invite Keaton to one of his fights until Keaton’s mother inquired, “What happened to us whites sticking together and helping one another out against the predator?”
The behaviors of Jones’ mother leads folks to wonder whether or not Keaton himself has adopted and used racist ideologies, leaving many to make the assumption that perhaps it was racist tendencies that resulted in the bullying that he references in the viral video.
However, there are many folks who have made the decision to continue to stand with Keaton, claiming that they could separate the child from his mother’s actions. Singer Parson James, tweeted, “We cannot hold kids accountable for the actions of their parents/family.”
Many of the celebrities that had offered Keaton and his family tickets to high profile events and concerts, have rescinded their invitations following the news of Jones’ connection to blatant acts of racism. Many celebrities have even used this incident to highlight other stories of bullying that have been in the news lately, such as that of 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis and 13-year-old Rosalie Avila, two young girls of color whose stories of bullycide had been overshadowed by Keaton’s story.
Many people have felt cheated out of their empathy and money after finding out about the Jones’ affiliation with racism, especially after a GoFundMe campaign raised over $50,000 for Keaton. Kimberly Jones attempted to de-escalate the situation by saying that the photos on her social media were “meant to be ironic and funny and extreme.” During her interview with GMA she also makes the claim, “We’re not racist. People that know us, know that.”
Bullying is indeed an important and poignant issue that should be taken seriously and handled with care, but we must not forget that racism functions as another kind of bullying, one far more ingrained in our system. Keaton does not deserve to be bullied – no one does – and no one should bully anyone else either. Racism and bullying are destructive forces plaguing our country; hopefully one day, kindness and courage can begin to remedy that.
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