Rage simmered on Allyson MacIvor’s Facebook feed as friends, family and strangers demanded a young Rogers Place employee be fired.
MacIvor kissed a girlfriend at Rogers Place, was reprimanded for it by an usher and lodged a complaint.
But she didn’t want revenge.
“That’s not the right way,” she told me this week as the story was picked up across North America. The BBC called Thursday.
When the assistant general manager at Rogers Place called, MacIvor accepted the apology, dinner and free tickets to another concert, but urged the manager not to fire the woman usher.
Instead, offer the same tickets and dinner to the employee, on the condition they attend together, she said. “Then I can get to know her as a person; she can get to know me as a person. And hopefully we can both move forward … With everything in the news right now, we need more love and more hope.”
What a breath of fresh air. Thank you.
We don’t need more examples of people brought low for saying and doing stupid, insensitive things. We need more examples of people offering forgiveness and finding ways to make things right.
Of course, the young usher hasn’t accepted yet.
That might be even harder than what MacIvor did. To accept MacIvor’s offer means admitting she was wrong.
But as a society, making space for people to be wrong and learn is the only way to get through this.
The story started Friday evening at the Jack White concert. It was an amazing concert, said MacIvor, a 26-year-old drummer for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and teaching artist with the Sarah McLachlan School of Music. At the encore, as the heavy chords of The White Stripes’ hit Seven Nation Army reverberated through the arena, she was overcome with emotion, turned to the friend she came with and kissed her.
The moment was beautiful. It lasted all of two seconds.
The usher — a young woman in her 20s — put out her hand. That was “inappropriate sexual behaviour.”
Never mind heterosexual couples kissing in the audience, never mind the Kiss cam that is popular during Oilers games — MacIvor had to stop.
She almost lost it. Her friend pulled her back. The usher said if she had a problem, she could see the manager.
MacIvor and her friend finished listening to the song. But she decided — for the first time — she wasn’t going to let this slide. As the crowd left, she found the usher at the top of the stairs and the young woman marched them halfway around the arena to the manager’s office.
As soon as the usher left, the manager was extremely apologetic, said MacIvor. But the incident burned. She cried as she filed an incident report.
“This was intrusive and violating,” she said, indicating it was harder because it’s not the only time this kind of thing happened. In Edmonton, walking down the street or at a festival, “I can’t go kiss my partner, we can’t hold hands because someone will honk their horn or make a catcall.
“This is the first time I didn’t just walk away.”
She posted to Facebook the next day, got a shout-out of support from White at his Calgary concert, and has been overwhelmed by media interest.
In recent years, we’ve seen other hateful run-ins go viral.
I think of the B.C. woman and her ugly, racist rant against a table of Afghan-Canadians at a Lethbridge Denny’s. Or of the racial slurs thrown at Edmonton resident Bashir Mohamed as he rode his bike downtown.
Off social media, we’re seeing hate groups marching publicly and acts of vandalism at the Talmud Torah School.
The group HateFreeYEG is creating hate-free window stickers for businesses. But we’d be naive to think that’s the whole answer.
Real change only happens through relationships. We see better with our hearts than our minds. That was MacIvor’s gut response.
In Montreal, a group called the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence takes exactly this approach. They work with anyone buying into violent ideologies, from neo-Nazism or jihadism.
But they don’t stigmatize and dismiss these people as evil. Instead they offer emotional support, build their sense of agency and develop a relationship of trust.
In one case, it was the process of writing a comic book together that made the breakthrough. The teens used allegory to explain their journey to radicalization — to explain that they’re not monsters. They’re regular teens who made mistakes.
The Canadian magazine The Walrus ran a fascinating piece on the approach in September.
I’m holding out hope the Rogers Place usher will join MacIvor for dinner — maybe not now, while the internal investigation is fresh, but perhaps later.
We need new ways to work through all kinds of potentially hateful cultural clashes. If you have stories of what’s helped, I’d love to hear them.
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