Documented Essay on Wideman’s “The Seat Not taken”
John Edgar Wideman’s essay “The Seat Not Taken” describes his sociological experiment during the trips he took on the train to work and back home. He does this to determine the cause and effects of other passengers invariably not sit next to him, someone of color when the seat next to him is vacant. Wideman concluded that the seat beside him is always empty, and it appears that way due to the subtle racism shown by citizens in the presence of his skin color. Racism is a big part of Wideman’s essay when it comes to others picking the seat next to him on the train. His statement “I’m a man of color” amplifies the main reason why people avoid the seat next to him. Wideman expresses loneliness and sadness about the seat next him. “The emptiness of the seat is something quite sad.” (Wideman) In the 21st century, racism is still apparent in today’s society and part of everybody’s life depending on the circumstances. Even if it’s not expressed explicitly, racism is still subconsciously there in our minds. There have been cases of racist outbursts on public trains or places, and these have been shown to be crude and hostile. An example of this public outrage displayed by an Australian woman on a busy train, cursing her foul-mouth away at two younger passengers because they wouldn’t give up their seat for her. (Harris) This gives the idea that anyone of color could be stereotyped and discriminated against because of their skin color. As mentioned in the article, the term “gook” was used because the Australian woman shouted her racist comments at an Asian woman. Wideman explains that 9 out of 10 times people will shun the free seat next to him, especially when the train is nearly full because of his skin color (para. 4). This case has some of the same characteristics with the Australian woman’s story in terms of racial profiling (Asian and African American), and these happened during busy hours on the train. Under...
References: Frost, Robert. "1. The Road Not Taken." 1916. Bartleby.com. http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html.
Harris, Sarah A. "WATCH: Woman 's foul-mouthed racist train rant shocks Australia." Friday July 2014. Express. http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/486770/VIDEO-Woman-s-racist-rant-on-train-in-Australia.
Wideman, John E. "The Seat Not Taken." Gavin, Frank, Emily Donville and Dagmar Vavrusa. Effective Reading and Writing. Pearson Learning Solutions, 2010. 411.
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