(They) Called Them Greasers: A Postcolonial Take on Anzaldua (2/28/11)

30 Sep

In the poem, “We Call Them Greasers”, Gloria Anzaldua exposes the heart of postcolonialism. Much like the invasion of the Indians by the Whites, these same instances are brought upon the Mexican population. It’s important to remember that Mexico used to span the left side of the country: up through the New Mexico of today, Arizona, Nevada, California, and parts of Wyoming. This implies that, at one time, the whites “needed” to take over that land during the pressures of Eminent Domain and vision of “conquering all” that filled the American people of the time. If you really think about it, there was very little equality in this country until last century, and even today, minorities struggle against an overwhelming hegemony.

            She begins by integrating Spanish words into her poems, as in “ranchos” or “manana.” Anzaldua is obviously commenting on the fact that she is publishing mementos of her culture in a white society. In a way, these Spanish words feel like a victory over her oppressors, as they “got through” in the publishing process. The voice of the poem, however, is a white male that represents the overwhelming majority. The phrase, “Wasn’t hard to drive them off, cowards, they were, no backbone,” contributes to my earlier stated idea of conquering all; driving west and making everything ours. It relates by cultural greed on our part and a lack of respect for anyone or anything different than the norms that we know.

            It’s also important to note that these families were doing nothing other than trying to make it as farming communities. What was so wrong with that? The poem says that even if they had “land grants and appealed to the courts, it was a laughing stock them not even knowing English.” This last sentence is pretty ironic as it says, “them not even knowing English.” It points out that most of the white people in this country don’t even fully understand their own language, let alone know how to use it. There are so many redneck phrases that I can guarantee could be interchanged with this in the poem. People need to stop murdering the English language on a daily basis.

            The poem suggests that the men who resisted the overtaking were beaten, “lynched”, and killed. The “women – well [he] remember[ed] one in particular. She lay under [him] whimpering, and [he plowed] into her hard kept thrusting and thrusting.” This scene obviously narrates the rape of an innocent women based solely on her race and desire to keep her home and family intact. This can also be translated into the cultural rape that Anzaldua discussed in “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” Mexican culture, specifically the Spanish language is so beaten down and negated in our culture by ignorant white Americans that these minorities never stood a chance from the beginning. People are so easily influenced that trying to instill the presence of equality has never and will never work. Just like we discussed in class, you both conform and non-conform in predetermined structures: so the racist conqueror is one in the same with the member of the equality protest. This rape victim from the text is not only a victim of sexual assault but of the age-old tradition that we are the superior race. Hitler’s ideals didn’t spark out of nothing as most would try to believe, but by example from generations like these that eviscerated entire cultures without remorse or consequence.

            Towards the end of the poem, Anzaldua compares the Mexicans to the Indians. During the rape, the narrator confesses “I felt such contempt for her round face and beady black eyes like an Indian’s. Afterwards I sat on her face until her arms stopped flailing, didn’t want to waste a bullet on her.” Obviously the phrase “waste a bullet” emphasizes complete devaluing and worthlessness in the eyes of the presumed white narrator. Lastly, the title of the poem is “We Call Them Greasers” for the fact that “Greasers” were exactly what we called them. People who worked so hard that the sweat formed what we called a “grease” on their skin, but we never recognized the work that created the “grease”. Most people probably attributed it to genetics or some other racist assumption. All in all, Anzaldua is confronting the white society that held pleasure in destroying her culture years ago, and in terms of postcolonial theory, she embodies the rage and discomfort that it entitles.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Scholarly Essays/Responses


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