John Edgar Wideman
The author, a man of color, rides Amtrak’s high-speed Acela train from his home in New York City to a teaching job in Providence, R.I. Over four years he has conducted an informal sociological experiment and has noticed that people will shun a free seat if they have to sit next to him. After ruling out body or breath odor, an angry demeanor, or an appearance that would indicate he is a religious extremist or gangster, Wideman concludes he is left alone because of his race. Although he savors the extra space, the reason behind why he is riding alone is not only sad but scary when you examine it.
Wideman is a professor of Africana studies and literary arts at Brown and the author, most recently, of “Briefs.”