Author loses book deal for tweet-shaming

Washington DC trainImage copyright
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A US author has lost a book deal after tweet-shaming a Washington DC metro worker for eating on a train.

Natasha Tynes posted a picture of the staff member to her Twitter account, and tagged the woman’s employers.

Amid an online backlash accusing Ms Tynes of racism, a publisher scrambled to pulp her debut book for the “truly horrible” tweet.

Eating and drinking is illegal on the Washington Metro, though this is currently lightly enforced by police.

Ms Tynes, a World Bank employee, tweeted on Friday: “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.”

Image copyright
Twitter/ @NatashaTynes

Ms Tynes said that when she confronted the employee on the Red Line train, she was told to “worry about yourself”.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) thanked Ms Tynes for “catching this and helping us make sure all Metro employees are held accountable”.

But Ms Tynes, a Jordanian-American who identifies as a “minority writer”, soon found herself under attack online.

Some people defended her.

But most comments were withering.

One read: “I was so infuriated that she would go to such lengths to tread upon someone just having a bite to eat while doing her job & not hurting anyone. I pray that young lady has not lost her job. Ms Tynes went out of her way to be petty & spiteful. Not. cool.”

Egyptian American journalist Mona Eltahawy tweeted: “Anti-Black racism is shamefully all too common among non-Black people of colour. I would add classism to the list of bigotries that we must fight too.”

Ms Tynes deleted the tweet along with her personal website and set all her social media accounts to private. She had reportedly described herself on her now-defunct LinkedIn page as a “veteran communications expert” and “social media strategist”.

A publishing house that was to distribute her forthcoming novel, They Called Me Wyatt, responded by saying it was taking steps to “cancel” the book.

Rare Bird Books said: “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.”

On Saturday, Ms Tynes’ publisher, California Coldblood, announced it would postpone the book’s 11 June release date and “discuss appropriate next steps to officially cancel” it.

“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 we have to be allies, not oppressors,” its statement said.

Ms Tynes’ novel is about the murder of a Jordanian student in Maryland, and how her consciousness lives on in the body of a baby boy in Seattle.

Over the weekend, it was savaged on the website Good Reads by reviewers who had not even read it.

One said: “Natasha Tynes is not a woman that supports other women. She is a minority that is racially insensitive to the struggles of those who she presumes to be beneath her. I’m an avid reader of multicultural literature and I, in fact, teach world literature. I would never expose my students to anyone as insensitive as this.”

But another reviewer leapt to Ms Tynes’ defence.

“The author isn’t a bigot,” the post said. “She reported somebody eating. Your jumping to play the race card is pathetic on YOUR part, not on the part of the author read.”

A spokesman for the Metro worker’s union noted that operators are only given a 20-minute break to eat their meals before they must arrive at their next station.

The union acknowledged that eating and drinking is against the rules.

But it noted an 8 May police order that advised 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”.

The union statement added: “Understanding this email, our operator clearly was doing no wrong.”

It is not known if WMATA took any official action against the employee.

In 2000, the Metro provoked uproar after a 12-year-old black girl was arrested for eating a chip on a train.

Ansche Hedgepth was handcuffed, had her shoelaces removed, and was held in a windowless jail cell.

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