During her Friday morning commute, author and World Bank employee Natasha Tynes tweeted a photo of an uniformed Metro employee eating on a Red Line train and tagged the WMATA account, asking transit officials to hold the employee accountable for violating Metro’s no eating and drinking policy. Metro quickly responded to Tynes’ tweet and followed up with a request for more details, which Tynes provided in subsequent tweets.

The backlash was swift on Twitter where people criticized Tynes for publicly shaming a Black woman and putting her job at risk.

The incident took another turn when Unsuck DC Metro, the anonymous “Metro watchdog” Twitter account, reposted the photo of the Metro employee (after Tynes had deleted her post and issued an apology) and berated the employee even further.

The now-deleted tweet sparked debate about issues of race, entitlement, and empathy — which have tinged many headlines in Washington in recent months. Over the weekend, Rare Birds Books, a publishing house that was planning to distribute Tyne’s upcoming novel, announced that they are severing ties with the author as they “have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way.” They company also urged the novel’s publisher to sever ties with Tynes, putting her book deal in jeopardy.

We’ll hear the latest on this debate that set local social media ablaze over the weekend.

Guests

Transcript

  • 12:00:18

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking about species disappearance, the results of a recent United Nations report that talks about species disappearing at the most rapid rate since the dinosaurs disappeared 66 million years ago. We'll also talk about a woman riding Metro, who saw a worker eating and decided to take a photograph of that worker and tweeted it out and complained about Metro too.

  • 12:00:46

    KOJO NNAMDIBut first, for reasons which I am not at liberty to disclose right now our General Manager J.J. Yore joins us in studio. J.J., welcome, why are you here?

  • 12:00:54

    J.J. YOREI'm glad to be here and thank you for -- at least thank your production team for letting me crash your show. And I don't know if you notice --

  • 12:01:02

    NNAMDISecurity.

  • 12:01:03

    YOREI'm kind of dressed up today. And that's because it's a very special day for us, because the Mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser, has made a proclamation for today. And the proclamation is "Kojo Nnamdi Day" in honor of your, yes, 20 years -- 20 years here on WAMU. And I'm dressed up, because we're going to a ceremony, which you will be the major honoree of where the mayor is going to officially make this a proclamation and we're going to have a ceremony down at the Wilson Building. And more than that or not only that, but a company called Ice Cream Jubilee, which is an ice cream parlor here in the District has decided to give away Kojo Scoops today of your favorite ice cream. Are you going to tell us what it is?

  • 12:01:55

    NNAMDISweet. Strawberry.

  • 12:01:56

    YOREAll right. All right. So, Kojo, we have been celebrating your 20 years on the air for much of the last year and I just wanted to say how proud all of us are here of your work and the service you've provided to the region. And we're going to culminate this 20th year celebration, as you know, with a big event on June the 6th at the Howard Theater and it's going to be a great event. And we're inviting lots of people to come and anyone who wants to get tickets can go to the kojoshow.org on the WAMU website and find out all about it.

  • 12:02:38

    NNAMDIOkay. And this afternoon we'll all be gathering at the Wilson Building and talking with Mayor Muriel Bowser about why they're having this day in the first place.

  • 12:02:48

    YOREYes. Are we going to see you blush?

  • 12:02:50

    NNAMDIProbably. Probably. We'll see me blush.

  • 12:02:52

    YOREGood I hope so. I hope so. Do you want to move on to real business now? More important things, because you look like you're ready to be done with me, Kojo.

  • 12:03:01

    NNAMDIBut we're not going to promise Mayor Bowser that she won't be attacked vicious the next time she appears on the "Politics Hour." So there is that. But, J.J., thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:03:09

    YOREAll right. So great to be here.

  • 12:03:10

    NNAMDILater in the broadcast a recent UN report says we're on the precipice of mass extinction. We look at local species that are at risk. But, first, the social media backlash was swift after an author and World Bank employee reported a Black Metro employee eating on a train tweeting a picture of her in uniform. Have you seen that story? Do you have an opinion on it? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to kojo@wamu.org. Joining me in studio is Natalie Delgadillo. She's a Staff Writer for DCist.com. Natalie, always a pleasure.

  • 12:03:44

    NATALIE DELGADILLOHey, Kojo, thanks for having me.

  • 12:03:46

    NNAMDINatalie, first what exactly happened and what was the response on social media?

  • 12:03:50

    DELGADILLOWell, on Friday morning a D.C. author named Natasha Tynes, who also works for the World Bank tweeted out a photo of a Black woman in a Metro uniform eating on the train, um, and she tagged the WMATA tweeter account and she basically said, "You know, this is unacceptable. I thought it wasn't allowed to eat on trains and I really hope that WMATA responds." WMATA did respond shortly after asking her for more information about the line that she was on and the direction extensively trying to identify the employee in the photo.

  • 12:04:23

    DELGADILLOTynes shortly after responded to WMATA in subsequent tweets giving that information. And later on in the morning those tweets started blowing up. A lot of people were retweeting Tynes and criticizing her for basically endangering the livelihood of a Black woman for eating on the train.

  • 12:04:43

    NNAMDIThere are a number of things at play here. Natasha Tynes is a Jordanian American and a lot of people pointed out that this public shaming of a Black woman by another woman of color was what they were objecting to. What have you seen around that thread?

  • 12:04:57

    DELGADILLOYeah, that's right. I've seen lots of tweets around that sort of topic pointing out that, you know, just because someone is a person of color doesn't mean that they're not, you know, prone or able to be anti-Black that there's still racism against Black people and other communities of color. And that is important to sort of point that out. And keep that in mind.

  • 12:05:20

    NNAMDITell us about the role of "Unsuck DC Metro" and all this. Starting with what is "Unsuck DC Metro?"

  • 12:05:26

    YORE"Unsuck DC Metro" is a very popular and controversial tweeter account. He has -- or they have more than 80,000 followers. It's an anonymous tweeter account. And they tweet sort of rather caustically about Metro, issues with Metro and they've had controversial opinions and have been very opinionated, I guess, about these issues before. They were very against Metro fare decriminalization and they had sort of a voice in that debate.

  • 12:05:56

    YOREAnd even after Natasha Tynes deleted her tweets and apologized and eventually deleted her Tweeter, "Unsuck DC Metro" kept a screenshot of her original tweet pinned to the top of their page and sort of doubled down on criticizing this Metro employee for eating on the train and criticizing other people for calling Tynes racist for calling it out in the first place.

  • 12:06:18

    NNAMDIWe have had the author of "Unsuck DC Metro" as a guest on this broadcast before. But when I read what was posted it said that, "Nobody wants to smell your nasty food." And that to me seemed both vicious and racist. And I think "Unsuck DC Metro" needs to explain to some Black people anyway, maybe this Black person, exactly how he's able to identify that the food being eaten by a Black woman is nasty smelling, but that's another story. People have pointed out that Metro gives employees just 20 minutes for lunch. What are some of the issues that have come up there? And what was the Metro union's response?

  • 12:06:58

    DELGADILLOYeah. So I don't actually know whether that's the official policy for Metro or that's the agreement with the Metro union that there are only 20 minutes for lunch. But a rep for the Metro union told The Washington Post that Metro station operators or train operators generally only have about 20 minutes to eat a meal and get to their next access point. So it sort of leaves the question, you know, how is a person supposed to eat and travel to their next access point all in 20 minutes? Like where else is she supposed to eat except the train, right?

  • 12:07:28

    DELGADILLOThe Metro union has come out in defense of the employee and sort of said, you know, she really wasn't doing anything wrong. She was just trying to do her job to the best of her ability. And they are not recommending any kind of disciplinary action against her.

  • 12:07:40

    NNAMDIIndeed, it's my understanding that Metro has quietly stopped issuing criminal citations for eating on Metro last week along with fare jumping, loud music, and other offenses. What's the story there?

  • 12:07:53

    DELGADILLOThat's right. There was actually a long debate about this. The D.C. Council decriminalized fare evasion, playing music on Metro, eating on Metro last year in a bill and some other sort of minor offenses that you mentioned. There was a long debate about this and it eventually passed after Mayor Muriel Bowser tried to veto it, but it didn't actually take effect until just recently.

  • 12:08:19

    NNAMDIHere's Jim in Manassas, Virginia. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:08:24

    JIMYeah, so somebody sends in a picture of a person, who appears to be a Metro employee breaking the rules, eating on the train. Real simple, discipline her. Give her support. Give her counseling. I'm sure there are some rules that say if you get disciplined twice or three times, you're fired, end of story. All this other stuff is just whoa, whoa, whoa, too much about racism, too much overthinking, etcetera. She did wrong. She's in public. She got caught. No big deal, but she did wrong. So to that extent discipline her. Thanks.

  • 12:08:57

    NNAMDIJim, in the old days that might have operated, but in the days of social media we make long divisive arguments over just about anything. So this --

  • 12:09:07

    JIMAnd is that wise, though, Kojo, to spend so much time on simple matters. I mean, some things are pretty simple.

  • 12:09:12

    NNAMDII can't say whether it's -- I can't say whether it's wise or not. All I can say and I guess, Natalie can confirm this is that it's expected it. Isn't it?

  • 12:09:18

    DELGADILLOThat's right. And it did have material consequences for this author. She eventually got her book deal canceled.

  • 12:09:25

    NNAMDIHas it been canceled entirely?

  • 12:09:27

    DELGADILLOIt's been canceled entirely. On Saturday her publisher put out a statement on Tweeter saying that she -- they're looking into canceling the publication of her upcoming book.

  • 12:09:37

    NNAMDIWell, that does seem a bit of a harsh penalty, but what do I know. Thank you so much Natalie Delgadillo for joining us.

  • 12:09:41

    DELGADILLOThanks, Kojo.

  • 12:09:43

    NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back a recent UN report says we're on the precipice of mass extinction. We look at local species that are at risk. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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