Discomfort — Challenge — Hold — Repeat: Small acts of rebellion from colonial ties

Mariana Soto Pacheco
4 min readJan 18, 2021

For the past year I’ve been having discussions about discomfort. When reflecting about decolonising processes discomfort became a clear path to identify what was otherwise elusive to most of us. Let me explain. In these circumstances, when we come face to face with the remains of colonial power we have a gut reaction. Whether that is because you are reinforcing colonial power on someone or because you happen to be on the other end of that transaction. Let me be clear, there are victims here, but most of us happen to have been on both sides of the colonial mallet. Social structures are sustained by the oppressed as well, that’s in part how they reproduce. We start believing that, for example, a degree from a public university from Brazil is less “valuable” than one from an Ivy league in the US. Sit with that. How did you come to that conclusion? Right, a colonial preconception, let’s move on.

Discomfort is a powerful gut feeling. It lets us know that even if our “””rational””” (I couldn’t decide on how many quotes that would require) side of our brains is comfortable with the preconception, the rest of our being is not. Like a flare in the night it shines briefly to ask for us to dive deeper, to at least analyse the situation. That is why I’m arguing for you to sit with that discomfort. Not easy or… comfortable (insert drums for when a joke has been told).

So, we have taken the first step. You are sitting with that discomfort. There are roughly two ways that that could go. Either you become aware of an aspect of your privilege that you might be reinforcing to the detriment of somebody else, somebody that could be anonymous to you or not, or a whole group of people. Or, you become aware of how you are on the other side of that transaction and you’re getting shorthanded. My personal experience is that the latter is more painful, yours might be different. To me realising that I’m the one on the oppressed seat brings a mixture of feelings of disbelief and rage and, ultimately, sadness. I cannot explain why, but sadness is the deepest of them all. It’s like someone pulled the veil on what I thought my life could be and all the things I’m pushing myself to achieve and showed me there’s a cap. I’ve been working for nothing, because someone will arbitrarily decide that I won’t get there for a stupid reason (my skin colour, my nationality, my residence status, where I studied…). I know I’m not telling you something new, but, I’ll get…

Mariana Soto Pacheco

I'm a social researcher specialised in health policy. I am also a makeup, skincare and style aficionado.