Natasha Tynes is a Jordanian-American author who became the subject of intense controversy on social media after she reported a black transit worker in Washington D.C. on Twitter for eating on a train. Her book deal is now in jeopardy.
Tynes, who has a lengthy career in Middle Eastern journalism and touts her expertise in social media, has now found herself the focal point of social media criticism, with some people on Twitter labeling her a “snitch.” Tynes’ critics online have linked her to a series of other incidents in which black people were subjected to aberrant scrutiny while doing everyday acts.
“Even if @Metrorailinfo don’t fire that employee, that’s not going to undo the fear and scrutiny #NatashaTynes will have caused them. Reprehensible thing to do,” wrote one woman on Twitter.
Some people have defended Tynes online, though, but those voices were drowned out by people upset with her actions. They’re calling it “eating while black.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tynes Complained About the Employee ‘Eating on the Train’ in Uniform
It all started when Natasha Tynes wrote this on Twitter at 9 a.m. on May 10, 2019:
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.’
The tweet included a photo of the employee, a black woman. She tagged The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority account, which then responded to her, saying, “Good morning Natasha. Thank you for catching this and helping us to make sure all Metro employees are held accountable. Can you confirm the time you were on the train, the direction you were headed and what line you were on?”
Tynes provided that information, writing, “Thank you for responding. Appreciate it.”
Criticism then erupted. You can read some of the reaction comments toward the end of this article.
2. Natasha Tynes Wrote a Book About a Jordanian Student Being Murdered But Its Distributor Called What She Did ‘Truly Horrible’
Tynes had a paperback book They Called Me Wyatt coming out on June 11, 2019. The Amazon.com blurb describes the book this way: “When Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder.”
Nerd Daily wrote in a book review, “It is not very often that you run across a novel with a new concept that you have truly never seen before.”
The book’s distributor was Rare Bird Books. Tynes’ distributor released a statement, saying they were working on canceling Tynes’ novel within its distribution network.
“Rare Bird is aware that an author distributed by us, Natasha Tynes, and published by an imprint that is sub-distributed by us, California Coldblood, did something truly horrible today in tweeting a picture of a metro worker eating her breakfast on the train this morning and drawing attention to her employer,” the statement read.
“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. We are currently taking appropriate actions to cancel Tynes’ novel, They Called Me Wyatt, within our distribution network and are strongly urging Tynes’ publisher, California Coldblood, to consider other appropriate actions.”
This was California Coldblood’s response:
3. Natasha Tynes Is a ‘Jordanian-American Journalist’ Who Is Described as a Middle East Expert
The Amazon biography for Tynes describes her as “a Jordanian-American journalist, writer, and media development professional based in Washington, DC.”
“An expert on the Middle East, she’s appeared on a number of national and international TV programs, including Larry King Live, PBS’s Foreign Exchange with Daljit Dhaliwal, Paula Zahn show, CBS’s This Morning, Scarborough Country, and BBC’s Up all Night,” the bio says.
“Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, and the Jordan Times, among many other outlets.”
An article in Arab-American News described her book as one that “deals with issues of immigration, race and the need for belonging in a new land.”
“I originally wrote it as a short story,” said told the site in April 2019. “I shared it with my writing group and they said I should turn it into a novel. I did and four years later the rest is history.”
Her Twitter page is now privatized.
4. Tynes Is an Immigrant Born in Jordan Who Calls Herself a Social Media Maven
According to Arab-American News, Tynes was born in Amman, Jordan. She is married and has three children. She moved to the U.S. about 15 years ago in her 20s, the news site reports.
As for her novel, Tynes told Arab American News that it dealt with issues of identity. “When she grew up in Jordan, no one talked about being White or Black,” she said of the book’s main character. “Then she goes to the U.S. and suddenly people see her as brown and she realizes she’s a minority. Even though the Census and all the forms see her as White, people around her see her as brown.
Her LinkedIn page describes her as a “veteran communications expert, and a social media strategist with over twenty years of experience. I’m currently working as a Communications Officer for the World Bank Group, where I lead the social media program for the International Finance Corporation (IFC).”
“I have two decades of media experience working as a journalist, editor and a managing editor, and also as the director of global training programs for journalists worldwide,” she wrote. “Building on my extensive experience in journalism and media development, I established Tynes Media Group where I provided digital media solutions including social media strategies, media analysis, translation, media training, and media conferences support.’
“I’m also a native Arabic speaker an expert on the Middle East. I have appeared on a number of national and international TV programs, including Larry King Live, PBS’s Foreign Exchange with Daljit Dhaliwal, Paula Zahn show, CBS’s Morning show, Scarborough Country, BBC’s Up All night, among others.”
She added: “I’m a public speaker on issues related to global media development, the Middle East, digital media and citizen journalism. I have appeared in discussion panels in various places across the country including the National Press Club, the National Endowment for Democracy, the University of Wisconsin, among others. I’m also a social media maven with over 8000 followers on Twitter. I have been recently named as one of the Twitter personalities to follow on the Middle East by UAE-based magazine, Elan and one of the top 20 humanitarians fo follow on Twitter by the Humanitarian News Research Network. In my free time, I write fiction. I have won the F.Scott Fitzgerald award for my short story Ustaz Ali. My novel They Called Me Wyatt will be released in 2019.”
As President of Tynes Media Group, her duties include, among other things, “I advice organizations on training programs related to journalists and citizen journalists around the world. Clients include: The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), Search for Common Ground (SFCG), German Marshall Fund (GMF).”
Several people left positive recommendations on her LinkedIn page. “She is excellent at everything she does, meticulous, hard worker, has an eye for details, a very good team player, and she has the art of listening to others, a very friendly person,” wrote a man who works in Algerian television. “To sum it up, she was born to make a difference in journalism industry across the globe.”
“Natasha is an outstanding worker. She has a sharp intellect, a strong work ethic and impeccable integrity. She started out working as an editor for the International Journalists’ Network and quickly rose through the ranks,” wrote the president of the International Center for Journalists in a LinkedIn recommendation.
She has served as program director for the International Center for Journalists and as an online edited for Al-Jazeera, among other positions. She was a reporter for the Jordan Times and managing editor of Arabia Online.
Under education, she lists, a master’s degree in international journalism from the University of London and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences City, University of London from the University of Jordan.
5. A Firestorm of Criticism Has Ignited Against Tynes
Many people criticized Tynes on Twitter. “The incident with #NatashaTynes is a perfect example of why we all need to have an intersectional approach to racism. Self identifying as a minority does not mean you cannot opress others. #classism #opression,” wrote one woman.
“@NatashaTynes should write a book about what happened when she didn’t mind her business. Word on the street is, they call her snitch. #NatashaTynes,” wrote another.
“@NatashaTynes see how powerful the internet is? Bet you won’t try that again,” wrote yet another.
“This is less abusive than bbq Becky, it in the same energy – feeling obligated to insert self and police a black person,” a woman opined.
“This lady could have been on the way to her 3rd job and the train trip was literally the only chance she had to eat,” another wrote. “We have no empathy any more. We don’t consider the struggles others may face.”
“@NatashaTynes Someone eating breakfast at work before working a probably 9=12 hour shift at an underpaid job where she has to deal with as*holes like you is something worth making a stink about? You make me sick,” a Twitter writer said.
However, not everyone disagrees with Tynes’ tweet. “@NatashaTynes you did nothing wrong. be strong. The people accusing you of being racist are the racist ones, not you. All you did was voice your concern for sanitary public transportation and showed how an employee doesnt care about the rules that are there for everyone’s benefit,” wrote one man. Another man wrote, “You can’t snitch on the people who enforce the laws. Natasha did nothing wrong.”
However, a different man wrote, “There’s a difference between being right and righteous. She may have been right, but what she did was not righteous. That’s why she is getting backlash.”