When Snitch-Tweeting Goes Wrong and Proves POC Solidarity is a Scam
I don’t know how many of you are on Twitter enough to have caught when Jordanian author, Natasha Tynes, tweeted a photo of a Black woman who is a transit worker in D.C. eating on the train, which is against the rules. I lived in the D.C. Metro area for a few years, and, after having lived in New York City, the cleanliness of the Metro was astonishing. There aren’t any “pizza rats” and the no-food policy is a big part of the reason. I appreciate why the rule is in place. I also understand why it’s frequently broken. People are busy; they have long commutes; they’re hungry. It would never have crossed my mind to appoint myself as the food intake monitor on whatever car I was riding in. Tynes had no such qualms. She didn’t just accost the woman and tell her to stop eating. She took a photograph of her without her consent, posted it to Twitter (again without consent) and tagged the transit authority’s account. It was a clear attempt to get the worker in trouble and disciplined or even fired. I think Tynes thought her smug, superior snitch-tweets would garner her high fives. Instead, the Twitter response, “Dracarys!” was directed at Tynes not the woman she targeted.
The mob Tynes had hoped to unleash on a hungry stranger morphed into a multi-headed Hydra and turned on her viciously. Her book’s distributor, Rare Bird Books, cut ties with her and explicitly repudiated her decision to target a Black woman minding her own business for public censure and punishment. A lot has been made of the “white woman calling the authorities on Black people” trope. But it’s not just white women. Non-Black POC do it too. The unfortunate truth is POC solidarity is nearly always a scam. Anti-Blackness is too universal for it not to be. Abusing Black people is the clearest way for non-Black POC to signal that they’re with the power structure and deserve to be promoted in it. They expect deference from Black people too. I think the transit worker’s “Worry about yourself,” response to Tynes’s initial interference — that refusal to defer to her — is what made Tynes demand to speak to her manager and set this whole thing off.
Tynes is predictably leaning hard into the “But I’m POC! I have an accent!” excuses non-Black POC pull out when they get caught being anti-Black. Tynes has gone even further. She is now suing Rare Bird Books for $13 million. I predict this also goes poorly for her. The core of her complaint seems to be the distress threatening tweets caused her, and Rare Bird Books had nothing to do with them. I wouldn’t wish threats on anyone, but Tynes had zero qualms about casually deploying the threat of getting a Black woman minding her own business fired, so I don’t have any sympathy to spare for her. If that mob had devoured Tynes’s target, I think she would have been giddy with the power.
Tynes is grandiose and self-important. It’s why she interfered with a stranger. It’s why she escalated to involve that stranger’s employer. It’s why she posted it all on social media. It’s why she felt she had to “flee” the United States temporarily to get away from the heat on Twitter. Plenty of people have been dragged on Twitter. I’m sure it’s distressing, but when the Twitter mob you yourself tried to set on someone eats you up instead, perhaps it’s time for some self-reflection.
Unsurprisingly, the news of how hard Tynes is taking all this has defenders popping up, and none of them have a word to spare for the woman who was initially targeted. This doesn’t surprise me. Claiming victimhood and crying about how much they’ve been hurt is always the next step in these women’s scripts. Weaponized tears. There will always be people ready to pick up arms when they start to flow. Being told that she (an author who works at the World Bank!) wasn’t more important than a Black woman who drives a bus for a living was likely too much for Tynes’s ego to bear. It was also too much for onlookers who share her worldview. Her book’s distributor drawing such a firm line and rejecting her values rubbed salt in the sore wound.
I’m glad things turned out the way they did, but they often don’t. If Tynes’s tweet hadn’t gotten shared by outraged verified users with large follower counts, the whole thing may have flown under the radar, and who knows what might have happened. I don’t know if the transit workers union would have gone to bat so hard or if the transit authority would have been as sympathetic. Crushing Black “rulebreakers” with disproportionate punishment is part and parcel of American life.
Tynes’s actions demonstrate that there are very good reasons plenty of Black people don’t like being lumped in with POC. It’s not truculence. It’s understanding that not being white doesn’t mean other POC are on our side, as Tynes (and others) continue to prove.
*An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Rare Bird was the publisher of Tynes’s book. Rare Bird was the book’s distributor.