Author Natasha Tynes looks set to lose her book deal after a tweet criticising a Metro employee for eating on the train sparked an online backlash.
Tynes, a Jordanian-American writer and World Bank employee in Washington, tweeted a photo showing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority employee in uniform, eating on the Red Line.
“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes tweeted. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds.”
Within an hour, transit officials had responded thanking her for “catching” the employee eating and “helping” to “make sure all Metro employees are held accountable”.
Eating, drinking, smoking and littering is banned on Metro buses or trains and in stations.
Officials asked Tynes to confirm the time she was on the train, the direction she was headed and the line she was on.
The writer provided those details, adding: “Thank you for responding. Appreciate it.”
Social media users immediately slammed the self-described “minority writer” over the post, accusing her of publicly shaming a black woman.
It also sparked the viral hashtag #EatingWhileBlack.
Eating while Black
— Curious Chanda Prescod-Weinstein 🙅🏽♀️ 🇧🇧🌈 (@IBJIYONGI) May 10, 2019
We all complain on social media but you… don’t identify the person you’re complaining about, in a photo no less, and try to get them fired. What on earth? For eating on the train?
— roxane gay (@rgay) May 10, 2019
So @NatashaTynes decided to use her power as a NBPOC to get a Black Women fired for eating on a train in uniform. When I tell Black Women we are ALL we got – this is the shit I’m talking about. #AintNoSisterhood pic.twitter.com/PGhnJtlb8Z
— LeslieMac 🖤 (@LeslieMac) May 10, 2019
1. Natasha, what you did was so horrible you need to explain why you did it in paragraphs/pages. Not bullet points and certainly not a tweet. There are few graver sins in my mind than targeting someone who works in a job like that woman does. https://t.co/VG8L21Cfds https://t.co/yk51qiq6ar
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 10, 2019
Tynes apologised, deleted the tweet and later set her account to private so that only her followers could see her posts. Her website was also been taken down.
After the controversy, publishing house Rare Birds Books, which was set to distribute Tynes’ upcoming novel, They Called Me Wyatt, released a statement condemning the author and vowing not to publish the book.
“Rare Bird is aware that an author distributed by us, Natasha Tynes, and published by an imprint that is sub-distributed by us, California Coldblood, did something truly horrible today in tweeting a picture of a metro worker eating her breakfast on the train this morning and drawing attention to her employer.
“Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behaviour directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies.
“We think this is unacceptable and have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardise a person’s safety and employment in this way.”
California Coldblood, Tynes’ publisher, issued a statement saying: “We do not condone her actions and hope Natasha learns from this experience that black women feel the effects of systematic racism the most and that we have to be allies, not oppressors.”
At the same time, social media users took to Goodreads to give Tynes’ book negative one-star reviews in advance.
“Would you still go ahead and buy a book if you know it was written by a bigot who went out of her way to get an African American lady fired for eating on her way to work?” one reviewer wrote.
“I didn’t actually read the book. I just came here to let any potential buyers know that Natasha Tynes, the author, attempted to have a black woman fired from her job working for the DC metro just because she was eating her breakfast when Natasha is not allowed to,” another said.
“Natasha Tynes is absolutely disgusting,” said another reviewer. “How are you trying to profit from being a minority while simultaneously displaying misogynistic and classist habits against black women.”
The publisher has since announced it will postpone the book’s publication date “while we further discuss appropriate next steps to officially cancel” it.
“I feel hurt and embarrassed’ – The Target of Tynes Social Media Bullying Says
And while the Metro employee will not be facing disciplinary action for eating on the train, she is “hurt and embarrassed” for being blasted on social media, Barry Hobson, a spokesperson for the Metro workers union, told BuzzFeed News Monday.
Hobson, the chief of staff for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said the WMATA’s general manager had assured the union Monday that the bus operator would not face any action for eating on the train.
A WMATA spokesperson said in a statement that it does not comment on personnel matters. “However, speaking generally, this kind of incident wouldn’t be expected to result in more than counseling for a first offense,” the spokesperson said.
But Hobson said that the operator — who has worked for the WMATA since 2001 — was unable to enjoy Mother’s Day weekend with her children after being “humiliated” by Tynes on social media. Instead, the operator spent Mother’s Day trying to respond to multiple people asking her about her photo that went viral on social media, he said.
The employee is not permitted to speak to the media per her union contract, but Hobson said he was speaking on her behalf.
“She has children that go to DC public schools,” Hobson said. “She’s very embarrassed and wishes [Tynes] had not done this.”
Hobson added that the operator would have usually followed the rules and not eaten on the train. However, she was aware of an email that Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik had sent May 8 — just two days before Tynes’ tweet — ordering transit officers to “cease and desist from issuing criminal citations in the District of Columbia for fare evasion; eating; drinking; spitting, and playing musical instruments without headphones until further advised.”
“Understanding this email, our operator clearly was doing no wrong,” the Metro workers union said in a statement.
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