Planking has offensive past

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Planking.

This unique activity requires one to lay stiff as a board on a random object, hands to the side and feet pointed.

It’s become a popular craze.

The more insane the object, the better the plank. The more dangerous the object, the more fun the plank.

This activity, however, might not be as popular if people were aware of the negative connotations it references.

Planking can be traced back to when America entered the slave trade in the late 1600s and began traveling to Africa in pursuit of slaves.

By the mid-1800s, the profit gained by slave traders were astronomical, making the long and arduous voyage across sea well worth the effort.

According to information gathered from campus databases, a slave acquired during the trade could be sold from anywhere between $800 to $1,200 in America. This meant that a ship carrying 800 slaves could potentially earn $320,000 to $960,000.

The price of a human life offered slave traders incentive to acquire as many slaves as possible.

Planking references the manner in which slaves were stored below ships, usually in cramped, uncomfortable conditions.

Some ships were made for the carrying of slaves, while others were merely adjusted in order to store the slaves below deck.

But all ships carrying slave cargo had this in common: slave decks that ran the entire length of the ship.

Wooden plank-like boards were used to hold slaves below during the long journey to America.

The slaves were shackled to the wooden boards, their bodies stiff and their arms to their sides. Sound familiar?

Slaves remained in this position for about two months as they voyaged across seas. Rarely did they move from said position to stretch their muscles or get fresh air.

Imagine being below a ship, shackled to wooden boards with hundreds of bodies surrounding you.

Everyone breathing the same air. The combination of defecation and urine, body odor and vomit mixing to generate a stench beyond anything you could ever wish to imagine.

Would this be a memory you’d want to be reminded of?

Many did not survive these difficult circumstances due to the number of slaves on board, disease and the length of the journey.

It’s difficult to understand why anyone would want to participate in an activity that held no humor for my African American ancestors.

This isn’t an accusation to those participating in the craze.

This isn’t an attempt to say that participants are deliberately trying to offend black people.

Today’s planking craze may not be influenced by slavery, but the similarities should not be ignored.

So, now that you know that planking does reference a heinous time for African Americans, and can remind them of the hurt and loss that was associated with slavery, my hope is that those participating in this craze will begin to take the feelings of others into account and perhaps find a better way to fill their time.