The culture of silence
ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - November 15, 2018 - 12:00am

How many times have we sat in meetings and did not speak up? We felt it would get us nowhere. In our relationships, how many times have we let family, friends or colleagues say blatantly false accusations or even half-truths because we wanted to keep the peace? How many times have we stopped talking about our own oppression because we are tired of people not believing us and worried about our safety and tenure? How many difficult conversations has our organization not participated in because they seemed too overwhelming and we all did not want to rock the boat?


Others keep quite because they are beholden, indebted to someone who did a favor. We just want to be silent to avoid conflict—for peace. We oftentimes forgive for what others have done in order to move on. And we often forget the past so that we can face the present. But then, we also think of what the future holds when we don’t think of what’s a better alternative of the present.

It is uncertain whether many of us understand the multitude of ways that we are oppressed by systems and institutions. Ways that we are taught to minimize or even curtail our voices, our rights, our wants, and our needs.

Are we aware how this oppression manifests in our lives? I think we can all agree that we have systems that oppress groups of people in our organizations. We have symbols, norms, and rules that do not allow all of us to show up and participate in society as fully human. Ways that we have been taught not to speak up for ourselves or for others.

Brazilian educational philosopher Paulo Freire believes that powerlessness is the strongest form of oppression because it allows people to oppress themselves and others. And thriving the culture of silence means validating and supporting our powerless place in the society.  

We all pay a price for silence. Silence kills our ideas, energies, and relationships. It also kills our communities, connections, and humanity.

The culture of silence can be changed through education. Let’s create brave spaces for folks to speak a whole lot of truth. Breaking out from silence is liberating. From the top of our voices, let us say no or end to any form of repression to speak up. If we find something not in accordance to what is expected, we need to break our silence.

Breaking our silence entails a lot of sacrifices. Oftentimes we can be ostracized for being ungrateful—condemned and reviled. But when will the oppression end? We should stand and fight for what we believe in. It is only in breaking the silence that our voice be heard—and then we will be liberated from oppression.

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