A Washington-based author is being dropped by her publishing house amid fallout over a tweet condemning an African-American transit worker for eating on the train.
Natasha Tynes, a social media strategist and communications officer for the World Bank Group, tweeted a photo of the unnamed woman, who was sporting a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority uniform worn by employees of the transit system in the nation’s capital. She deemed the worker’s train ride meal “unacceptable,” then tattled to the woman’s superiors for breaking the authority’s rules against eating.
“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes wrote in a Friday tweet. “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds.”
Eating, drinking, littering and smoking are prohibited on Metro trains and in stations, NBC News reported. The author said when she confronted the employee about it, the woman told her to “worry about herself.”
This is @NatashaTynes. Natasha talks alot about the challanges of writing as a minority woman, but took it upon herself to report a BW for *checks notes* eating. In uniform.
Sis told her “worry about yourself,” and the “I need to speak to a manager” jumped out. pic.twitter.com/VTwN6IwbTR
— Naima Cochrane’s Burner Acct (@stillnaima) May 10, 2019
It wasn’t long before Tynes faced a torrent a backlash from critics, including her publisher, who slammed her for trying to draw attention to the worker. The author later apologized, saying she was “truly sorry.” However, that did little to quell the growing controversy.
Rare Bird Books, the distributor set to release Tynes’ upcoming novel, “They Called Me Wyatt,” wasted no time condemning her “truly horrible” actions.
“Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday. “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.”
The company said it was taking steps to “cancel” Tynes’ novel and called on publishing house California Coldblood to follow suit. Later that day, the publisher announced that it was stopping all shipments of Tynes’ book and postponing its release “while we discuss further steps to officially cancel the book’s publication.”
“We do not condone her actions and hope Natasha learns from this experience that Black women feel the effects of your systemic racism the most, and that we have to be allies — not oppressors,” California Coldblood tweeted.
Tynes has since shuttered her Twitter account and her website is no longer active. As for her book “They Called Me Wyatt,” it had a 1.43 rating on Good Reads.com as of Monday. Several users cited the controversy as the reason for their poor reviews.
“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 commenter asked. “I asked myself this question, then decided I’d rather give my money to someone more deserving.”
“Unfortunately, I am removing all my stars for this novel,” another chimed in. “I support people and give the benefit of the doubt. But in this case, I will not stand behind someone who purposefully tears others down. And the actions of this author against a civil employee completely fall against my own personal ethics. It’s truly a shame.”
An official for the Metro workers union told NBC News on Monday that no disciplinary action would be taken against the Black employee. Barry Hobson, the chief of staff for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said the woman was taking a meal break between transit assignments when Tynes snapped a photo of her.
“To take her photo … she has had to endure some of the backlash made about her race, about her appearance,” Hobson told the outlet, saying the woman had no idea Tynes, who’s Jordanian-American, had taken her picture.
The employee, whom Hobson described as a veteran of the WMTA, typically would’ve waited until her next stop to eat breakfast. However, the train was running late that morning, forcing her to scarf down her meal on the train.
“She is very concerned and very embarrassed that the patron did share her photo,” he told NBC News. “She has totally taken responsibility for what she did.”