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Planking: Harmless fun or racist trend?

CONTROVERSIAL: Singer Chris Brown posted this picture on Twitter recently

SINCE RAPPER Xzibit blasted celebrities who had joined the bizarre ‘planking’ craze, claiming its origins could be traced back to slavery, the Internet has been ablaze with debate.

When singers like Chris Brown and former Destiny’s Child star, LeToya Luckett tried their hand at the practice, which involves lying face down in the most physically challenging positions and sharing the pictures with friends, or in this case, fans, the outspoken rapper said he felt compelled to speak out.

While it has been heavily reported that the trend, said to have originated in Australia as a prank among young people, others, including the Hey Now rapper believe it has a more sinister history.

Taking to his official Twitter account, the former MTV host wrote:

"Planking is the dumbest s**t ever.”

“Planking is a way to transport slaves on ships during the slave trade, it's not funny. Educate yourselves,” he added in a separate post.

SLAVERY

Links between ‘planking’ and how slaves were transported from Africa to America has since been called into question.

According to Wikipedia, “Often the ships, also known as Guineamen, transported hundreds of slaves, who were chained tightly to plank beds.

For example, the slave ship Henrietta Marie carried about 200 slaves on the long Middle Passage. They were confined to cargo holds with each slave chained with little room to move.”

While an extract on UShistory.org read: “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.”

Facebook group, Planking – Slavery, has since been set up as a forum for disgruntled members to vent their frustration about the growing craze.

Commenter, Bridget, wrote: “PLANKING: slaves were chained and attached to plank beds. They were forced to lay face down with their arms by their side and their wrist chained to their waist.”

She added: “Some were even stacked on top of each other with no room to move. Not many of the slaves survived, many dying from dehydration and disease.”

Links to slavery is not the only controversy to plague the popularity of this controversial trend. The recent death of a 20-year-old Australian man, who died after ‘planking’ on a balcony, has also marred the new craze.

BET.com writer Danielle Wright wrote in a recent blog: “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.”

BACKLASH

In light of recent revelations about ‘planking’ and its notable correlation to slavery, many have surprisingly stepped up and defended the practice.

An anonymous commenter wrote on The Voice website: “It [Planking] is nothing to do with the slave trade - no chains and no ships and no massa! It started in australia in 1997. Its very funny. I love looking at planking pics. They’re addictive. I would post a few of mine here if I could [sic].”

Another wrote: “[Xzibit], what a moron - maybe HE needs more education next he will say people shouldn't travel by boat as slaves were transported this way!”

Co-Director of the Centre of International Slavery Studies at Liverpool University and RCUK Fellow in International Slavery, Dr Benedetta Rossi, exclusively told The Voice:

“I think the link between slavery and Planking appears to be very slim. Just because it may resemble people being shipped across the Atlantic, what people are forgetting it is an entirely different scenario.”

“People who were enslaved did not have a choice. They [slaves] were forced, and were made to lie that way. There was a complete denial of human rights,” she said.

She added: “This phenomena [planking] is about free choice and because of that there is an essential difference. People want to lie down in strange places, but as long as they are not trying to make fun or envoke painful
memories of slavery then it cannot be compared.”

While Xzibit and other anti-plankers appeal for people to “educate” themselves, Dr Rossi believes that those who are fighting the ‘cause’ are the ones in need of education.

She said: “Those who are writing about planking should use that energy to highlight real issues that are occurring today. There seems to be a waste of energy here, and the same people should educate themselves and write about slavery to remind people.”

“Lets direct our attention to cases that are actual cases,” she added.

What do you think?

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