Planking Trend Leads to Questions on Origin

Lying face down while being photographed in an unusual location doesn’t sound like a remarkable activity to indulge in, however as of recently, hundreds of individuals have chosen to participate in this act known as planking.

Since becoming popular earlier this year, discrepancy on the origins of planking has emerged, causing disagreements on its significance.   

Planking has received controversial media attention after causing the death of an Australian man who plummeted to his death while planking on a balcony. This media attention has since augmented after entertainers, including Courtney Luv, openly denounced this trend because of its perceived ties to slavery.

“My view of planking is fairly negative since I do believe its roots come from either slavery or the mockery [of slavery,”] said Luv in a recent interview.

On her blog, http://www.courtneyluv.com, she cites research that while on plank beds, slaves were forced to lay face down with their arms by their side.

However, slave historians find no substantial proof in Luv’s claims.

“I doubt that the term originated from the slave trade,” said Sian Rees, author of “Sweet Water and Bitter: The Ships that Stopped the Slave Trade.”

“In all my research into the slave trade, I have never come across the word ‘planking’ in any contemporary document,” she said. “It seems obvious to me that the term has been coined because planking requires people to lie stiff as a plank — I cannot see why any other meaning should be inferred.”

Julius Lester, author of “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” and “To Be a Slave,” agrees that slaves “were put on their sides and their knees were bent, and they were laid more like spoons in a drawer,” as opposed to lying stiff, face down, like people do when planking.

His research is supported by references from Hofstra University.

According to a passage in http://people.hofstra.edu, slaves were rarely positioned on their stomachs with their hands to the side. They were generally placed on their side due to the ship captains’ intent to have slaves occupy as little space as possible.

“It seems more logical to think that planking comes from imitating a plank of wood,” Lester said. “I see no connection with the slave trade.”

Despite what professionals say, people have their own reasons for planking.

“In the dictionary, the work plank means timber,” said Delroy Bloomfield, who agrees that planking is connected to the mocking of wood rather than slavery.

Delroy, 17, who is a proud planker, said, “I think [anti-planking activists] are uptight people who lack the ability to have fun.”

Though, despite admitting to it being a stupid trend, he still enjoys planking because it’s funny to see the different places where people decide to plank.

“Yea it’s stupid, but since when are non-stupid things fun? There’s a little stupidity in every entertaining thing,” he said. “I don’t care what they think. That’s their opinion.”

Despite professionals’ dismissal of the slavery connection, there is still enough evidence for the controversy for Mike Louis, a senior at Thomas A. Edison High School and anti-planking activist.

“Planking looks exactly like what the slaves went through,” said Louis who viewed planking as an ignorant trend and plankers as mimics.

“People continue to plank because they don’t care about its history,” he said. “They only see the humor in it.”

Nevertheless, whether the intentions are to resemble a piece of wood or mock slavery, the fact that people continue to gain gratification though planking and entertainment from its photographs, is ultimately what keeps this trend afloat.  

And, despite the controversial dismissal of researchers who have studied slavery, a recent interview with Luv indicated she has no intentions to neither change nor reconsider her beliefs.

“It does not change my views at all,” Luv said. “Rather it leaves me wishing I could challenge their thoughts.”

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