If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. Situations escalate quickly in the era of Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, so it’s always wise to pause for a few seconds before posting to social media. (You too, IHOP.) One D.C. writer learned that lesson this weekend, after a tweet she posted Friday condemning a D.C. Metro employee for eating on a train drew criticism—including from the publisher set to distribute her forthcoming book.
The Washington Post lays out the timeline of this saga, which began Friday when Natasha Tynes, an author and World Bank employee posted a photo of a woman in a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority uniform eating from a container while seated on a train. The tweet, since deleted but preserved via screenshots, reads: “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 the transit authority’s Twitter account responded asking for more details, Tynes reportedly provided the time of the incident and which train the employee was riding. It’s hard to argue that’s not grade-A tattle-taling.
The response was swift, and not in the way Tynes probably expected. While Metro rules do ban eating and drinking on trains, the union representing transit workers cites a May 8 email from Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik that instructed 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.” Basically, the email seems to de-prioritize these minor infractions in favor of policing presumably more important matters. The union further told The Washington Post that the employee was on a break, during which workers have “an average of 20 minutes to consume a meal and get to their next access point.” Not mentioned but clearly implied: Cut the worker some slack, eh?
Many critics stated Tynes’ call-out of the worker was egregious, especially because the transit employee was black. Tynes is Jordanian-American. Publisher California Coldblood, which was set to publish Tynes’ forthcoming book, issued a statement Friday that read, in part: “We’ve been made aware of the actions by California Coldblood author Natasha Tynes on Twitter. 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.”
On Saturday, California Coldblood issued another statement saying it would delay publication of the book “while we further discuss appropriate next steps to officially cancel the book’s publication.”