The milk crate challenge is taking over Black communities and is especially popular among Black youth. Some Black doctors are urgently pleading them to stop following the social media craze or risk ending up in the emergency room.
“I’m a parent, I have young kids, and for me it’s like horror and shock! I only see the danger in it, I don’t see the fun,” said Dr. Charmain Jackman, a psychologist and found of InnoPsych.
It is hard not to come across a video with millions of views on social media where someone would be seen attempting to climb a set of milk crates stacked up resembling an Olympic podium. The idea is to successfully walk across the stacked crates, but most participants fall several feet to the ground midway through.
It’s no laughing matter to Dr. Jackman and family physician and Medical Director of Morehouse Healthcare Ambulatory Clinics Dr. Michelle Nichols.
“This is extremely dangerous, and we need to tell people this is not a game. It looks like it’s easy but, but it’s extremely dangerous and they need to stop it,” said Nichols.
The popular trend is a hit among many young Black social media users. Jackman says Black culture thrives on community, and the milk crate challenge, despite the danger, offers that communal experience.
“When people are in community, we call that groupthink where people’s individual thoughts or feelings get consumed into what the group is doing, when you think about teenagers and adolescents, we hear a lot about peer pressure, so I think a lot of that is at play,” said Jackman.
Nichols points to emergency rooms already near capacity in part due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. Patients coming in seeking treatment because of milk crate challenge falls is completely preventable.
“The first thing that came to my mind is orthopedic injuries, like broken bones which we are already seeing with broken shoulders, legs, ankle bones, feet but the bigger danger is head injuries,” said Nichols.
Dr. Renee Gosline of MIT Sloan School of Management attributes the rapid rise in popularity of the milk crate challenge to the fact that it checks off several important boxes to an acronym she refers to as “DARK,” which stands for Discovery, Affective response, Replicability and Knowledge of culture.
Gosline explains that discovery refers to the newness and freshness of the trend on social media, which is attractive to online audiences. The milk crate challenge elicits a sudden and sharp response either with laughter or wincing for the person who took a nasty fall. The videos and actions can be easily replicated. Lastly, knowledge of culture especially Black culture is key. Gosline credits Black social media influencers for online for helping provide the necessary credibility the milk crate challenge needed to gain popularity.
“This is really where it comes in with Black Twitter, Black TikTok and other social media forms where there are these culture creators and Black users of these platforms have given them a tremendous amount of value in creating cultural shifts and also using these as a means of expression,” said Gosline.
Although both Dr. Jackman and Dr. Nichols understand the milk crate challenge will likely pass, their concern remains for the largely young Black participants just steps away from a life-threatening injury.
Popular social media platform Tiktok has moved to ban any searches for hashtag “milk crate challenge.” In a statement obtained by CNN, the company explained their rationale for banning videos of the challenge.
“TikTok prohibits content that promotes or glorifies dangerous acts, and we remove videos and redirect searches to our Community Guidelines to discourage such content. We encourage everyone to exercise caution in their behavior whether online or off.”