A Washington, D.C.-based author may lose her book deal after she tweeted a photo of a Metro transit system employee defying the system’s own rules, tucking into a huge breakfast while riding on the train.
Natasha Tynes tweeted a photo of the employee, who is black, and tagged the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA), asking why the employee was being allowed to eat on the train when WMATA heavily polices the rule in both its stations on and on its vehicles. Just a year ago, the WMATA transit police, for example, arrested a teenager for standing on a platform with a bag of chips and a lollipop.
“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes wrote in the now-deleted missive. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds. When I asked the employee about this, her response was, ‘worry about yourself.'”
WMATA eventually responded to Tynes and asked to add some pertinent details to her report: what train she was on, what direction she was going, and the exact time she witnessed the transgression. WMATA thanked her for her warning.
But that wasn’t the end of Tynes’ experience, by far. Almost as soon as she posted the tweet, Tynes was accused of racism and of threatening the worker’s employment for what social media users believed was a minor transgression.
“That’s literally someone’s life. That’s their job you’re messing with,” one user responded, according to NBC News. “She was eating. Trying to live. She was commuting.”
“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?” said another, author and activist Roxanne Gay.
Tynes, who is Jordanian-American herself, quickly apologized for her transgression and took her Twitter profile private, before completely deactivating it on Sunday afternoon. “I apologize for a tweet I posted earlier today, which I have since deleted,” she wrote as her final tweet. “I am truly sorry.”
Friday afternoon, Tynes’s book distributor, Rare Bird, tweeted out its own apology, and announced that it was dropping Tynes’ novel, “They Called Me Wyatt” from its imprint.
A word from us on what happened this morning with Natasha Tynes in DC. pic.twitter.com/gJY4lZLFUQ
— Rare Bird (@rarebirdlit) May 11, 2019
Tynes “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 behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies,” the group said, urging Tynes’ publisher, a group called California Coldblood, to consider “appropriate actions” against her.
They issued their own statement, echoing Rare Bird: “We do not condone her actions and hope Natasha learns from this experience that black women feel the effects of systemic racism the most and that we all have to be allies, not oppressors. As for the book’s publication, we are working with our distributor to take appropriate next steps.”
Late Saturday, California Coldblood announced that they would be pulling Tynes’ book from publication and are discussing “next steps” with others involved in the book, to see if they can fully cancel.
WMATA’s union defended the employee saying, in their own statement, that workers receive “an average of 20 minutes to consume a meal and get to their next access point to ensure all buses and trains are on time, safe, and ready to serve the riding public.”
“Our operator,” the union boss added, “was doing nothing wrong.”
WMATA has also pledged not to enforce its rules against food and drink on platforms and trains until they have a chance to assess the effects of the policy.