While fighting back tears, young Keaton Jones couldn’t stop asking one question: Why?
“Just out of curiosity, why do they bully? What’s the point of it?” he asks his mother while in the passenger seat of a parked car. “Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? It’s not okay.”
Even though Keaton’s mother, recording the conversation, never appears in the video, the pain in her voice is evident as she asks her son about what he suffers at school at the hands of bullies.
“They make fun of my nose. They call me ugly. They say I have no friends,” Keaton says, tearing up. At lunch, the indignities would turn physical. The bullies “put milk on me and put ham down my clothes, throw bread on me.”
It wasn’t just him, but other kids, too. “How does that make you feel?” his mother asks.
“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!” he says. “People that are different don’t need to be criticised about it. It’s not their fault.”
At this point, tears are rolling down Keaton’s cheeks and he is heaving with sobs. Nevertheless, he manages to offer advice to others who may be getting bullied, too.
“But if you are made fun of, just don’t let it bother you. Just stay strong, I guess,” Keaton says, gulping. “It’s hard. But ... it’ll probably get better one day.”
It’s unclear whether Keaton believes his own last reassurance. After those words, he turns away from the camera, and the video ends there.
Keaton’s mother, Kimberly Jones, uploaded the video to Facebook on Friday, noting that she was picking up her son early from school again because he had been too afraid to go to lunch. Recording the video had been Keaton’s idea, she said.
“My kids are by no stretch perfect, and at home, he’s as all boy as they come, but by all accounts he’s good at school,” Jones wrote. “Talk to your kids. ... We all know how it feels to want to belong, but only a select few know how it really feels not to belong anywhere.”
The video becoming the internet’s latest sensation started when a couple of Jones’ friends shared the post. “This is the sweetest boy ever! No reason people should treat him this way!!!” one wrote. “Wish I had a way to send it to the news!!!”
Soon, though, the video took on a life of its own. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of people shared Jones’ post on Facebook, leading to more than 15 million views in the span of two days.
At some point, the video migrated to Twitter, where it was shared and watched by hundreds of thousands more – including groups of athletes, celebrities and public figures, who said Keaton’s raw distress had struck a nerve with them.
Keaton-Don't waste time wondering why a bully would be so mean-They're sad people who think hurting others will make them feel better because they really don't like themselves-They're just jealous because you're so smart & handsomeYour friend-mh https://t.co/SUMw3OoCTm— @HamillHimself (@HamillHimself) December 10, 2017
Millie Bobby Brown, the child actor who plays Eleven in Netflix’s Stranger Things, started the hashtag #StandWithKeaton. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White said he wanted to bring Keaton to Las Vegas to hang out at UFC headquarters.
On Instagram, rapper Snoop Dogg said Keaton had a “friend for life” in him. And another rapper, Cardi B, came to Keaton’s defence [with some strong language].
Since the initial story broke, photos allegedly from Kimberly Jones' Facebook page and Instagram feed show members of her family carrying Confederate flags, considered by many as symbolic of US racism. There was also a photo featuring Keaton with a Confederate flag, and his older sister holding a pistol.
The original video of Keaton and other posts are no longer visible on Kimberly's Facebook page.