‘The Seat Not Taken’

AT least twice a week I ride Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train from my home in New York City to my teaching job in Providence, R.I. The route passes through a region of the country populated by, statistics tell us, a significant segment of its most educated, affluent, sophisticated and enlightened citizens.

Over the last four years, excluding summers, I have conducted a casual sociological experiment in which I am both participant and observer. It’s a survey I began not because I had some specific point to prove by gathering data to support it, but because I couldn’t avoid becoming aware of an obvious, disquieting truth.

John Edgar Wideman is a well-known writer.  Read the rest here.

2 thoughts on “‘The Seat Not Taken’

  1. the same thing has happened to me in minneapolis, chicago, & dc. That is one manifestation of racism that i don’t mind.

  2. I notice this too when I take public transportation here in Toronto. Men of colour, especially darker-skinned men, especially black men, have empty seats beside them.

    I also notice that I am a woman (of colour) with a female bias, and I prefer to sit beside a woman of colour than a white man. But I try to use a distance/spacing algorithm to determine what seat I will take (while being conscious of race and gender bias), and I find that many of the empty seats I end up taking are beside men of colour. But then when I notice this, I think I may be congratulating myself for sitting next to men of colour, as if it’s such a sacrifice…

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