Author's Book Deal in Jeopardy After Reporting Black Metro Worker For Eating on Train

Author Natasha Tynes is under fire after reporting a Black Metro worker for eating on the train. Tynes, a Jordanian American writer, may lose her book deal, publisher California Coldblood said. Tynes met swift backlash after she tweeted a photo of a Black female Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) employee in uniform eating on the Red Line on May 10. She tagged the WMATA account and reported that the employee told her to mind her own business.

“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,’” Tynes said in a now-deleted tweet.

Tynes then went a step further and gave WMATA additional information about the encounter when the transportation agency reached out to her on Twitter. A transit spokesperson thanked Tynes “for catching this and helping us make sure all Metro employees are held accountable.”

Washington, DC’s Metro prohibits riders from eating, drinking, smoking, or littering on buses, trains, or in stations. According to the transit agency’s website, Metro Transit Police will issue citations or arrest those who break the law. Barry Hobson, the chief of staff for the Metro workers union Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, could not be reached for comment. He told the Washington Post that the Metro employee was taking her meal break while traveling to her next assignment when she was confronted by Tynes.

In a statement, Hobson noted that operators 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.” The union acknowledged the rules against eating on a train or in a station, but also pointed to a May 8 email from Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik that ordered officers to stop issuing criminal citations for fare evasion, eating, drinking, spitting, and playing musical instruments without headphones “until further advised.” Based on that email, the employee did nothing wrong, the union said.

It was unclear what consequences the employee faced after Tynes tweeted at WMATA. The transit agency did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for information.

Tynes’ tweets were immediately called out on social media, with many criticizing her for publicly shaming a Black woman for simply eating on a train and attempting to get her into trouble. The self-described “minority writer” apologized for the tweet, saying she was “truly sorry,” the Washington Post reported. By May 13, Tynes’ Twitter profile had been deleted.

Backlash against Tynes also reached Rare Birds Books, which was scheduled to distribute her upcoming novel, They Called Me Wyatt. The publishing house said it has decided to no longer distribute the book. In a statement released on May 10, Rare Birds Books said the author “did something truly horrible” in reporting the worker to WMATA. “Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them a constant policing of their bodies,” the publishing house said. “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.”

Tynes’ publisher, California Coldblood, said in a statement on Twitter that it does not condone Tynes' actions and hopes she learns from the experience “that Black women feel the effects of systematic racism the most and that we have to be allies, not oppressors.”

On May 11, the publisher said it would be halting all shipments of Tynes’ book from its warehouse and postponing the book’s publication date “while we further discuss appropriate next steps to officially cancel the book’s publication.”

While most have responded against Tynes’ actions, she found support from one particular account, Unsuck DC Metro. The account had tweeted its support of Tynes to its 80,000 followers and dismissed allegations that her tweets were racist.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.