What you need to know about the Keaton Jones video and his family’s racism

It’s an internet saga for the books.

A video of a Tennessee boy named Keaton Jones describing the bullying he faces at school went viral last week, captivating millions and attracting celebrity attention. But as more details—some undeniably true, some murkier—about Jones and his family surfaced, the story became a divisive one.

Now, some are calling the story a “milkshake duck”—the internet’s own way of disowning someone (or something) as quickly as it grew attached. Is Jones’ mom an unapologetic racist? Did we all get scammed? What does this mean for how we view bullies? Here’s what we know.

The original video, which is no longer viewable due to privacy settings, showed Jones in a car, choking back tears as he explained being humiliated by his bullies.

“Why do you find joy in making innocent people, and finding a way to be mean to them,” Jones says in the video. “They make fun of my nose, they call me ugly, they say I have no friends.”

The video was posted to the Facebook of Kimberly Jones, who wrote in the post she was Keaton’s mom and that she picked her son up from school because he was scared of going to lunch.

The video quickly spread across the internet, and celebrities from Chris Evans (who invited Jones to the Avengers: Infinity War premiere) to Snoop Dogg reached out to Jones to show their support. Sports figures from football players to UFC president Dana White, who offered to bring Keaton to the UFC headquarters, rallied behind Jones.

As the video gained momentum, people looked into Kimberly Jones’ Facebook past, finding photos of her posing with a Confederate flag. Another photo showed Keaton Jones holding an American flag next to another young boy holding a Confederate flag.

Kimberly Jones’ page is now private, but Heavy.com reported one of her posts from Aug. 25 (two weeks after the Charlottesville rally) was addressed to “butt hurt Americans.”

“If you aren’t bleeding, no bones are sticking out and you can breathe, STOP Crying!” Jones reportedly wrote in the post. “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 and brokenness, Don’t.”

Jones’ daughter Lakyn reportedly wrote in a now-deleted Twitter post that her mom “is not in anyway a racist. I can assure you of that. She is just a strong southern woman.”

Many pointed out the irony that black athletes were among the first to show support for Keaton Jones.

Some celebrities who had originally supported Keaton Jones said he wasn’t to blame for his mother’s racist actions.

Jemele Hill, who invited Jones to visit her at ESPN, wrote Monday, “I’ve seen her posts and if true, I’d say there’s potential for a great, teachable moment here. My offer for Keaton to visit ESPN stands, because what happened to him was cruel. That said, this is a stark example of selective empathy.”

Some Twitter users speculated that Jones was bullied for using the N-word, but so far there is no evidence to support these claims.

MMA fighter Joe Schilling posted a screengrab on Dec. 11 of an Instagram conversation that was supposedly with Kimberly Jones, who said, “What happened to us whites sticking together and helping one of [sic] another against the predator?”

Schilling posted an Instagram video saying Jones was “just running a money scam.” But the account he thought was Jones is reportedly a fake.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BckQIaSln1o/

Jones’ daughter tweeted, “That is not my moms instagrram (sic). Her’s is private and she hasn’t been posting anything.”

The Instagram page, which is now deleted, was linked to a Paypal account and a GoFundMe campaign, but it’s not clear how much money was donated to the page operator, Heavy.com reported.

Another GoFundMe page set up by Joseph Lam on Saturday raised more than $60,000 before he froze the campaign.

“THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE MOM!!” Lam wrote Monday in an update. “However passing judgement on her before you know her is a form of bullying. Condemnation before evaluation is the ultimate form of ignorance. I can’t even say for sure that any of whats being said is true. I don’t know the family personally and never claimed to have known them.”

Lam, who is from New Jersey, has no apparent connection to Kimberly and Keaton Jones.

Kimberly Jones’ daughter Lakyn has reportedly been the only family member to make any statements, writing a series of tweets responding to critics of her family and thanking supporters.

https://twitter.com/Lakyn_Jones/status/939929522786521094

https://twitter.com/Lakyn_Jones/status/940358338306564096

https://twitter.com/Lakyn_Jones/status/940239149583556608

Celebrities and athletes have reached out to Lakyn Jones with supportive, anti-bullying messages for Keaton.

Regardless of whether people are on board with supporting Keaton Jones, the video and the chain reactions following have inspired conversations about bullying in general—perhaps inviting a reckoning of yet another problem our country faces.

Update 9:54am CT, Dec. 12: Jones’ mother appeared on Good Morning America on Tuesday to defend herself and her son. “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 said. “I mean, people that know us, know that.”

She admitted the Confederate flag photos were real, but that she didn’t mean any harm by them. “It was meant to be ironic and funny and extreme. I am genuinely, truly sorry,” she said. “If I could take it back, I would. If they want to hate me and whatever that’s fine, but still talk to your kids. Because [bullying] is an epidemic.”

Kris Seavers

Kris Seavers

Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.