Empty Train Seat Next to Me? I Wish!

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I am mystified by John Edgar Wideman’s account in The New York Times about how people on the Amtrak Acela train don’t take the seat next to him until it’s practically the only seat left. I am mystified not because I haven’t heard plenty of claims of this kind. I am mystified because nothing of the sort happens to me.

Note: I am not questioning Wideman’s experience — which is what makes accounts like this such a challenge for me to wrap my head around. In my book Winning the Race, I devote a chapter to this type of thing — of the sort that motivated Ellis Cose’s classic Rage of a Privileged Class. It was the hardest chapter I have ever written.

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