Planking: What’s All the Controversy About?

Planking: What’s All the Controversy About?

Many are comparing the "face-down, feet-down" stunt to planking on slave ships. But should they?

Published July 6, 2011

For the past couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk about planking. Famous names from LeToya Luckett, Dwight Howard and Rosario Dawson to Evelyn Lozada, Amber Rose, and Flava Flav have been captured in the act in which you lie face down on an unusual location and balance yourself in a completely flat, zero-degree angle with your palms to your thighs, feet pointed to the floor and face faced down. (Related: Planking photo gallery)


Though it’s gained a lot of popularity, many are complaining that planking is very offensive. Why? Because some claim that it has ties to slavery. They say that it is too similar to the position in which African slaves had to lie on wooden boards for months during the 16th century “Middle Passage.”


The trick was allegedly started by two Australian men 14 years ago. Gary Clarkson and Christian Langdon performed in public places. With the amusement of onlookers catching on, in 2007 a Facebook group was created and, years later, planking has become a phenomenon.


Needless to say, the amateur stunt, popularized by social media sites and mainly on Twitter, has become an Internet craze, but should people continue to plank if it really does have ties to slavery?


According to planks were used as beds for slaves. Placed two-by-two, men and women were forced beneath the ship deck of slave ships. The more slaves a boat could hold, the greater a profit the captain would make.  When the planks were lifted, it provided holding collars for five slaves, and then the plank was chained down.


“The captives lay down on unfinished planking with virtually no room to move or breathe. Elbows and wrists will be scraped to the bone by the motion of the rough seas,” the history website reads.


Even if some don’t want to go as far as comparing planking to slavery, there’s no denying that some pictures are atrocious. In one picture, a girl is planking with her head in a toilet bowl with her body outstretched. In another instance, rapper Diamond is planking with her body at a ninety degree angle to the floor on a stripper-style pole. And if that isn’t bad enough, a 20-year-old’s death was the result of trying to take a picture while planking off a balcony.


Fads are fads, and it is understood that they will pass over time, but for the sake of possibly respecting history, our pride and, in some cases, our lives, the fad expiration date for planking may need to come sooner rather than later.


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(Photo: Chaiwat Subprasom/Landov)

Written by Danielle Wright


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