Just days after the impassioned video of a bullied boy went viral, his family is now battling allegations of racism and profiteering. Tennesee middle schooler Keaton Jones’ video, in which he asks “Why do they bully? What’s the point of it?” created a flood of public sympathy, including tributes from such celebrities as Justin Bieber and LeBron James. However, photographs of his family holding Confederate flags and questions about a GoFundMe page in his name have put them almost immediately on the defensive.
On December 8, Lakyn Jones posted a video to Twitter, which her mother shot after picking her brother Keaton up at school following a bullying incident. In the video the young boy describes being picked on in heartbreaking terms. “They make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends.” The video, which has been shared hundreds of thousands of times over, has helped promote bullying awareness and the hashtag #StandWithKeaton has become a social media phenomenon, with celebrities showering the young man with praise.
However, just days later, photographs of the Jones family holding Confederate flags hit social media, sparking a backlash. In an interview with Good Morning America Tuesday, Keaton’s mother Kim Jones said the photographs were "meant to be ironic and funny and extreme." She went on to say, "I am genuinely, truly sorry.” In another interview with CBS News, Jones reiterated that the photographs were not meant to be racist, and said, "I've spent most of my life being bullied and judged because I wasn't racist." On Twitter, Keaton’s sister Lakyn went on to say, “Those who know me and my family know we aren’t racist. My brother doesn’t say the “N” word. Please leave it alone.”
At the same time questions have arisen about a GoFundMe page called Stand Up For Keaton, which has generated almost $57,000 so far. The page was created by a New Jersey man named Joseph Lam, who does not know Keaton, nor the Jones family, but says he was moved to “help with this childs future” after viewing his video. According to Lam, a woman claiming to be Kimberly Jones using a fake Instagram account had been commenting on the page and was in contact with him, but he has since frozen the page and is no longer taking donations. Meanwhile, Lakyn Jones took to Twitter, saying, “The Instagram KimberlyJones_38 is NOT my mom. She has a private Instagram and hasn’t talked to anyone. We haven’t received any money and don’t plan on it. The gofundme’s aren’t by any of us.”
[Photo: Good Morning America]