Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Who's Your Paddy?

Who's Your Paddy?: Racial Expectations and the Struggle for Irish American Identity

Jennifer Nugent Duffy
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 309
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Who's Your Paddy?
    Book Description:

    “Artfully knitting together the local and the national, Duffy's book is a clear-sighted account of the racial protocols of Irishness…. A significant addition to the literature on Irishness in America." – Diane Negra, University College Dublin

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4413-0
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Who’s Your Paddy? Irish Immigrant Generations in Greater New York
    (pp. 1-14)

    “I was never racist until I came to this country,” I was told by John, an Irish immigrant newcomer to Yonkers, New York, in the early spring of 1996. This nineteen-square-mile city of 200,000, which shares southern and eastern borders with the Bronx in New York City, gained national notoriety in the 1980s when its home-owning white ethnic majority resisted the desegregation of public schools and housing. Shortly thereafter, young and largely undocumented Irish immigrants began arriving in this racially tense locale in increasing numbers. The parallel movement of Irish bars onto McLean Avenue in southeast Yonkers met resistance from...

  5. 1 From City of Hills to City of Vision: The History of Yonkers, New York
    (pp. 15-48)

    In 1969, after two weeks of public hearings, a New York State Commission of Investigation discovered a private carting deal with Mafia leaders that cost the city of Yonkers approximately $1 million a year. When asked for his reaction, the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce president shrugged off the charges by stating, “All cities have their scandals.” In his report, Paul J. Curran, the commission’s chairman, admonished the city for being plagued with “intimidation, servility, favoritism, mismanagement, inefficiency and waste.”¹ This incident might very well be the basis for the familiar Yonkers epithet, “a city of hills where nothing is on...

  6. 2 Good Paddies and Bad Paddies: The Evolution of Irishness as a Race-Based Tradition in the United States
    (pp. 49-88)

    In 1863, the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day celebration transpired in the city of Yonkers. After attending mass at St. Mary’s, “handsomely dressed” participants marched through the streets and avenues of Getty Square in the city’s southwest quadrant. Every residence “proudly” displayed American flags. A St. Patrick’s Day ball was added in 1876, and by the end of the century, Yonkers could boast of several Irish organizations. Although parades became less common during this time, Yonkers celebrated St. Patrick with nine-course banquets and lectures as well as Irish-themed plays and performances. By World War II, city hall marked St. Patrick’s...

  7. 3 Bar Wars: Irish Bar Politics in Neoliberal Ireland and Neoliberal Yonkers
    (pp. 89-122)

    During the early 1990s, the southeast section of McLean Avenue witnessed the arrival of several stand-alone drinking establishments that were patronized largely by working-class, undocumented Irish immigrant newcomers. This shift marked the arrival of bad Paddies in the city of Yonkers. In response to homeowners’ complaints, the city council issued a moratorium on new bars in 1996, and a heightened police presence was dispatched to quell potential bar-related trouble. Conflicts between the Yonkers Police Department and bar patrons ensued, which in one case resulted in a federal indictment against two officers for violating the civil rights of the Irish immigrants...

  8. 4 They’re Just Like Us: Good Paddies and Everyday Irish Racial Expectations
    (pp. 123-166)

    “They’re were just like us,” I am told by Frank, a thirty-four-year-old assimilated Irish ethnic, as he describes the people he met during the first of many visits to Ireland. “It was as if my family never left Ireland.” He also added, “I felt like I picked up where they left off one hundred and fifty years ago.” When I asked Frank whether he patronized the Irish immigrant bars on McLean Avenue, as a way to possibly reconnect with his experience in Ireland, he told me, “No. They don’t really like Americans there.” Mary, a sixty-five-year-old Irish white flighter, shared...

  9. 5 Bad Paddies Talk Back
    (pp. 167-200)

    This chapter highlights the voices of Irish newcomers, both new and newer Irish immigrants in Yonkers, and how they interact with the good Paddy Irish model. As with chapter 4, this chapter begins with the St. Patrick’s Day season but does so through the experience of these more recent arrivals to Yonkers. While conditions, both in Ireland and in the United States, have changed since the migration of earlier Irish cohorts to the city, legal status largely sets Irish newcomers apart from their predecessors. As such, these cohorts reveal how being undocumented often makes it difficult to conform to, or...

  10. 6 Paddy and Paddiette Go to Washington: Race and Transnational Immigration Politics
    (pp. 201-240)

    Contemporary immigration politics is among the most complex and volatile sites of identity and belonging in the United States. As with urban redevelopment policies, immigration politics are as contradictory as ever in this current neoliberal climate. This is perhaps best illustrated by the Secure Communities Program, which was established in 2008 to assist with the deportation of dangerous criminals. Many local police departments have conducted fingerprint checks with the Department of Homeland Security. While the program is supposed to operate nationwide, there is considerable confusion regarding whether participation is mandatory, in addition to controversy surrounding the deportation of nonviolent offenders....

  11. CONCLUSION: To Belong
    (pp. 241-246)

    Because the U.S. Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, some undocumented newcomers in Yonkers returned to Ireland. Caroline, who worked as an undocumented waitress for eleven years, is one of my informants who returned that winter. She e-mailed me with her first impressions of how Ireland changed since she left: “I cannot get over the changes to my village. New cars and new houses are everywhere. And the number of foreigners working in the shops, even in my local pub! I couldn’t have imagined this ten years ago.” I cannot help but wonder how Caroline will interpret...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 247-290)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 291-300)
    (pp. 301-301)