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Breaking the "Culture of Silence" to Combat Misogyny and White Supremacy

CPSW helps college students to navigate options when faced with discrimination

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- The "Culture of Silence" is often used to describe an unspoken consensus among a group of people to not discuss or even acknowledge an issue, such as gender or racial discrimination among other injustices.

Speaking out is key to breaking the "Culture of Silence" but it is not always that simple. Even when people speak out at institutions, they are often silenced.

Unfortunately, deeply embedded patterns of discrimination against women in higher education happen all too frequently. For example, imagine that you earned a scholarship, but you can't receive the benefits. When you speak out about this, you start getting treated differently. No one wants to get back to you, or they are silenced. You are denied benefits. The people in charge silence other people. Your once great enjoyment is now ruined.

This example illustrates a violation of Title IX, which prohibits singling out individuals and treating students (i.e. paying customers) differently, or to "otherwise limit any person in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity" in education programs or activities.

The Center of Public Safety for Women (CPSW) is a partnership between eGirl Power, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and the Center for Public Safety in DC to combat Gender-based Violence (GBV) on college campuses, which is significantly underreported. As explained by #StopGBV Executive Team Deputy Chair Kayla, "people may not say anything out of fear of being judged or that they will be dismissed." Also on the #StopGBV Executive Team, Claudia described how this is "rooted in power imbalances and fueled by multiple factors, including cultural norms and social acceptance of harmful practices."

In their commitment to breaking the "Culture of Silence," CPSW also educates and empowers females and other marginalized groups to understand their options when faced with other injustices as well including "Systemic Discrimination." "Every point in the cycle needs to be addressed—creating dialogue, challenging our history, increasing reporting and increasing legislation" emphasized Nadia, #StopGBV Executive Team member.

The U.S. government defines "systemic" as "bias that is built into systems" and "patterns of behavior that develop within organizations that disadvantage certain [individuals]". Title VI was enacted as part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 to "prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance," and students at most higher education institutions are protected by this law. But even with legal protections in place, much more needs to be done to break the "Culture of Silence".

It was Paulo Freire, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, who described the "Culture of Silence" as created by a system of dominant social relations that instill a negative, suppressed self-image onto the oppressed. Freire used this term to discuss how the social domination of race and class were interwoven into the established educational system.

The toxicity of discrimination is felt throughout society beyond just our educational systems. In his commencement address to the 2023 graduating class at Howard University, President Biden called white supremacy a "poison" and the "most dangerous terrorist threat" to America. Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas has reported that white supremacy is the deadliest threat among domestic violent extremists (DVEs). Another rising DVE comes in the form of misogyny; and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has investigated and found strong connections between these ideologies.

But combating white supremacy will take more than mitigating mass shootings, as this and other forms of discrimination are also played out quietly in institutions across the nation, fueled by complicity in the status quo maintenance buried in a "Culture of Silence."

Do you want to see change?

Help Break the "Culture of Silence" Now.

Media contact:
Chris Lee


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