Who Is Natasha Tynes? New Details On Author Who Reported Black Transit Worker For Eating On Train And Now May Lose Book Deal

Photo: LinkedIn
Who Is Natasha Tynes? New Details On Author Who Reported Black Transit Worker For Eating On Train And Now May Lose Book Deal

An author in Washington, DC found out exactly how powerful her words could be last week when she sent out a tweet shaming a Washington Metro Transit Authority (WMATA) worker for eating on a train. The backlash may result in her losing her book deal. Natasha Tynes is a journalist and social media manager who is considered an expert on the Middle East. She ran her own consulting firm, the Tynes Media Group, which provides clients with social media strategy. Her latest project is the upcoming publication of her first novel called They Called Me Wyatt, which was slated for release in June.

But everything changed on May 10, when Tynes posted a tweet showing a photo of a WMATA employee eating breakfast on a Metro train and tagged the official WMATA account. Twitter users were outraged that Tynes did something that could risk another person’s employment status. Now her book deal is in jeopardy and she’s being accused of racism. Who is Natasha Tynes and what happened on Metro? Read on for the latest details.

1. Tynes

According to Tynes’ LinkedIn account, she is a writer and social media expert and currently works as "a Communications Officer for the World Bank Group, where I lead the social media program for the International Finance Corporation (IFC)". She also has experience as a journalist and editor and has run her own consulting firm, which she describes as providing “digital media solutions including social media strategies, media analysis, translation, media training, and media conferences support.” An expert on the Middle East, she has appeared on news programs including Larry King Live, PBS's Foreign Exchange with Daljit Dhaliwal, Paula Zahn show, CBS’s Morning show, Scarborough Country and BBC’s Up All Night. She also talks about her presence on Twitter, saying she has over 8,000 followers and was “named as one of the Twitter personalities to follow on the Middle East by UAE-based magazine, Elan and one of the top 20 humanitarians fo follow on Twitter by the Humanitarian News Research.”

Her upcoming nvoel may not be published.

2. Controversial tweet

The Heavy reports that on May 10, Tynes tweeted to her 8,000 followers that she had just seen an employee of WMATA eating on a train. Her account is not private but the tweet said: “When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train. 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.’” The tweet included a photo of the employee in question. WMATA responded to Tynes saying: “Good morning Natasha. Thank you for catching this and helping us to make sure all Metro employees are held accountable. Can you confirm the time you were on the train, the direction you were headed and what line you were on?” Tynes obliged with the requested details.

Tynes' tweet drew significant attention.

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3. Backlash

The backlash from Twitter users was swift. Many saw the original tweet as a way of shaming the employee, who was an African- American woman, for simply trying to get to or from her job. According to The Heavy, one Twitter user wrote: “This lady could have been on the way to her 3rd job and the train trip was literally the only chance she had to eat. We have no empathy anymore. We don’t consider the struggles others may face.” Another Twitter user wrote: “This is less abusive than bbq Becky, it is the same energy” referring to an incident where a white woman called police on a black family having a picnic in a public park. The Twitter user went on to say: “feeling obligated to insert self and police a black person.” The Washington Post reports that The Metro workers union — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 - issued a statement confirming that the employee was simply trying to do her job, saying she was taking a meal break between assignments and explaining that workers have “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.”

Twitter users did not take kindly to Tynes' treatment of a Metro worker.

4. Metro rules

Unlike public transit systems in other cities, there is no eating or drinking allowed on trains and buses in the Washington Metro system and doing so is against local laws. The WMATA website says “Don’t eat, drink, smoke or litter on Metro vehicles or in stations. Metro Transit Police issue citations or make arrests to enforce the law.” The law is seldom enforced, however. In 2012, the Washington Post reported that only 12 tickets were written for eating or drinking non-alcoholic beverages, although the Post did remind readers of an infamous incident in 2000 when a 12-year-old was removed from a train in handcuffs for eating french fries.

Ironically, the incident with Tynes and the WMATA employee eating breakfast happened just two days after an internal email directed employees 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.” As the Metro workers union — Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 - said in a statement: “Understanding this email, our operator clearly was doing no wrong.” The employee will not face disciplinary action as a result of eating on the train.

Some DC residents took time to praise Metro workers.

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5. Book deal

The negative response on Twitter did not go unnoticed, The Heavy reports. Within hours, the distributor of her upcoming novel posted a statement reflecting their decision to retract their contract with her, saying: “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 behavior 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 jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way. We are currently taking appropriate actions to cancel Tynes’ novel, They Called Me Wyatt, within our distribution network and are strongly urging Tynes’ publisher, California Coldblood, to consider other appropriate actions.” The publisher, California Coldblood responded as well, 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.”  By the following day, California Coldblood had announced that it was postponing publication of the book while taking appropriate steps to cancel it altogether.

Tynes will likely lose her book deal.

While Tynes was technically in the right with her tweet, her actions had consequences that she should have considered before publicly reprimanding a person to their employer. As one Twitter user observed, “There’s a difference between being right and righteous. She may have been right, but what she did was not righteous. That’s why she is getting backlash.”

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.