Officials at Washington, D.C.,’s subway train system have confirmed that one of its employees at the center of a social media shaming effort gone wrong was not violating any of its rules when she was photographed eating on board a train. Natasha Tynes saw the unidentified worker eating when she took a picture and posted it to Twitter in an apparent attempt to expose the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) would-be hypocrisy in enforcing its strict rules for passengers.
“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,” Tynes tweeted Friday in a since-deleted post. “This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds.”
But the tweet backfired when social media users came to the rescue of the employee and called out Tynes for trying to get a Black woman fired. Many suggested that Tynes, who is Jordanian American and identifies as a “minority,” was no better than the recently resurged wave of white women who have been trying to police Black people simply trying to live their lives.
The backlash was swift and Tynes, who was set to have her first novel published soon, was on the verge of losing her book deal. Her publishing house specifically condemned the racial aspect of Tynes’ attempted public shaming. “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,” California Coldblood said in a brief statement.
According to the WMATA’ union, the employee was well within her rights to eat on board one of its trains. The Associated Press reported that Barry Hobson, the chief of staff for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said an email was sent last week “from the Metro Transit police chief telling officers to stop writing tickets for fare evasion, eating, drinking, spitting and playing music without headphones until further notice.”
Therefore, Hobson said in a statement, “our operator clearly was doing no wrong.”
WMATA had yet to update its web page listing the “rules and manners” for riding on the Metro. As of Monday afternoon, the page said in part that no one was allowed to “Eat, drink, smoke or litter on Metro vehicles or in stations. Metro Transit Police issue citations or make arrests to enforce the law.”
Those rules were most certainly true nearly 19 years ago when Metro police handcuffed and arrested a little Black girl who was eating McDonald’s French fries in a subway station. Ansche Hedgepeth, who was 12 in November of 2000, was taken into custody.
“We really do believe in zero tolerance,” then-Metro Transit Police Chief Barry J. McDevitt told the Washington Post, which described him as “unapologetic for such arrests.”
Fast-forward nearly two decades and the nation’s capital is now the home to laws that permit recreational marijuana, making it understandable that local law enforcement would relax the enforcement of policies such as eating on the metro.
Ironically, it was users on Twitter, the same social media platform of Tynes’ choice, that had the final word. Scroll down to see how social media clowned Tynes for losing her book contract after trying to shame a woman and get her fired for doing something the Metro system was totally fine.