Is Planking Racist? Probably Not.

plank fail

We’ve received a few requests to explore the planking phenomenon, based on Xzibit’s assertion that planking is racist since it had roots in the way slaves were stacked on slave ships.

Adrien Chen at Gawker writes:

Actually, “planking” is a rebranding of the years-old British meme “the lying down game”. It comes from Australia, and is something radio stations ginned up as a promotional gimmick earlier this year.

Turns out, Xzibit is not the first person to claim that planking is somehow inspired by the horrific conditions in slave ships crossing the Atlantic. A popular June 28th post on the entertainment blog seems to have kicked off the planking-comes-from-slavery panic.

But there isn’t any evidence to back that up, as far as we can see. Slaveships are one thing, but a plank is essentially a board, and an exercise move. Saying slaves were stacked like planks (or, more commonly, boards) or saying slaves were chained to planks of wood is an accurate depiction of what occurred on slave ships. It is probably not what people were thinking about when they named the move.

Some people love planking, some people hate it, but we’re not seeing anything racist on this count.

  • Marquita Thomas

    Thank you! I felt like I was on a one person crusade to dispel the myth.

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  • Anonymous

    I never thought that it was racist, just dumb. I don’t want to end up like the lady in the gif.

  • Natalie Red Morse-Noland

    I knew that planking was a “thing,” but I did not know that “planking is racist” was a “thing.” It’s so hard to keep up with the internet these days.

  • dersk

    I remember coming across a similar urban legend on snopes about the origin of the word picnic (and of course there’s the whole niggardly thing in DC some years ago). The world could use more skepticism and less jumping to conclusions…

    • Morenaclara

      Or use more logic than emotion. 

      • nicthommi

        Or just do more research.  It’s interesting how having access to so much information seems to make people more ignorant.
        I remember getting an email about picnic but since I’d studied French since I was really young, I knew it was incorrect.  My explanation of the actual origins of the word were somehow doubted.
        I’ve noticed that a lot of people will believe random information that comes in email or is posted on someone’s web page but never check dictionaries, history books, or listen to coherent, logical, and factual explanations.
        I’m so glad that I was brought up to look up and research my own info. 
        The level of ignorance that is considered to be acceptable, even among supposedly educated people, is mind-boggling.

        • dersk

          Yeah, that’s what I mean by skepticism – judging how likely to be true something is, thinking for yourself, and looking it up.

  • Debra Cohn

    Thanks for clarifying that. Your opinion matters to me.

  • O’Phylia M. Smiley

    Thank you for pointing out the obvious to those who refuse to see it.
    Kids can’t have innocent fun without everybody trying to find something wrong with it~

    • SamanthaPink

       I definitely agree with you.  Some kids just want to have innocent fun.  Sometimes people just put too much thought and analysis into things.

      • Anonymous

        The problem here wasn’t too much thought and analysis – it was a half assed assumption that went around the internet.