Keaton Jones, of Knoxville, Tennessee, captivated the internet recently after a video uploaded by his mother showed the boy in tears. He called out his bullies as he lamented the torture he endured at school. In the video, Keaton revealed that the bullies, “make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends.” While the boy’s story tugged at heartstrings around the world and sparked a viral hashtag, conflict arose after photos surfaced of his mother. Listen up, internet: We can all learn a few lessons about this circus.
Lesson 1: Keaton’s video hit us right in the feels — and we fell for it
Over 20 million people watched the video and musicians, actors, TV personalities and athletes responded to Keaton’s video on social media. They, along with others who have experienced bullying, used the trending hashtag #StandWithKeaton to show their support for the middle school student.
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Keaton said he “never imagined” his story would gain the attention of dozens of celebrities. “All this attention really just feels amazing,” Keaton said. “[I’m] speechless, honestly … I think my message is being heard because, I mean, we’ve gone national. So many people are supporting us,” he added.
Next: A different kind of attention soon followed.
Lesson 2: Sometimes ‘good’ people hold problematic opinions
“I feel like anybody who wants to take the time to ask anybody who I am or even troll through some other pictures, I mean I feel like we’re not racist,” Jones told ABC News. “[The photo] was meant to be ironic and funny and extreme,” she added. “I am genuinely, truly sorry. If I could take it back I would.” She added that she regretted the backlash the photo created for her children. “ I’m obviously sorry that it has offended so many people, but the backlash to my children,” she said, “That’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”
Next: She made a great point about the backlash.
Lesson 3: Attacking a kid for his mom’s opinions is still bullying
As CNN points out, Jones and her son quickly became villains after photos surfaced of the child holding a Confederate flag. Keaton became accused, with zero evidence, of spewing hatred at black classmates and bringing the bullying on himself.
“People are threatening to kill my children,” she said. “We went from the most amazing family in the country to the worst.” She reported that her children no longer want to leave the house due to bullying that stemmed — in a cruel twist — from a post about fighting bullies.
Next: Despite the photo, Jones said she does not condone any discrimination.
Lesson 4: Real people can contain multitudes
Asked her thoughts on the Confederate flag, Jones told CNN she would not condone banning it because “taking away people’s freedom is a slippery slope.” At the same time, despite her Christian religion, she opposes putting the Ten Commandments in schools because not everyone follows the same doctrine.
“You’ve got to be really careful with what you take and what you give because we share this world,” she said. In other words: A person can have both a good heart and a problematic, misguided sense of “humor.”
Next: Some people also believed mom was looking to cash in.
Lesson 5: Even the best intentions can go horribly wrong
A third-party GoFundMepage for Keaton’s family quickly raised over $56,000 before it was closed for donations. Joseph Lam, who created the campaign, posted an update about its status, pointing out how bullying the family is, well, still bullying.
“Condemnation before evaluation is the ultimate form of ignorance,” he wrote. “This is about a kid who’s been bullied and not just one kid, Keaton, there are many unspoken cases about kids being bullied.” At press time, no funds had been disbursed to the family or anyone else.
Next: Because people are terrible, fakes quickly popped up.
Lesson 6: Don’t believe everything you read online
As Slate points out, scammers and impersonators attempted to capitalize on the Jones’ sudden fame, asking for PayPal donations and creating alternate GoFundMe pages. The controversy helped convinced Lam to shut down the real one. While some of the Confederate flag photos did prove legitimate, some eventually proved fake, as did at least one Instagram account posing as Jones. In response, she said the real ones “were meant to be ironic and funny.” Jones also told CBS she spent most of her life fielding bullying about her lack of racism.
Next: The story demonstrates something important about bullying.
Lesson 7: Being a victim of bullying doesn’t make bullying ok
By saying she has also suffered bullying, Jones hoped to earn some sympathy from her detractors. To critics, it sounds similar to First Lady Melania Trump taking on cyber-bullying as her pet cause. It falls a bit flat, when Trump is married to Donald Trump, cyber bully-in-chief. Just because Jones endured her own trials does not absolve her from accountability for her own opinions. And for those who bullied Keaton for his mom’s photos, rescinded their support, or threatened the family, there’s a lesson here too. An eye for an eye leaves the world world blind.
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