America is a country where race seems to always be mentioned: there are stories about Asians struggling with identity stereotypes, and others not associated with being Asian American. Tiger Woods comes to mind, of course, but there are others: Michelle Branch, Mark-Paul Gosselaar — Yes, Zack from Saved by the Bell — along with Dean Cain (New Adventures of Superman), and Rob Schneider.
Then there’s Hines Ward, whose father is African-American and mother is Korean. Born in Seoul, Ward plays Wide Receiver for the NFL’s Pittsburg Steelers and will play in today’s Superbowl XLIII despite a sprained his knee versus the Ravens. His records include being named 4x to the NFL Pro Bowl, franchise records in touchdowns, consecutive games with a reception, and twice being named to the All-NFL team. In Feburary of 2006, the Steelers won Super Bowl XL (21-10) with Hines Ward being named the game’s MVP.
In April of that same year, Hines Ward would return to South Korea with his mother. During his time in Korea, he had meetings to encourage social change as well as giving hope to the multiracial children of South Korea. Here’s a video about his journey to Korea that was featured on ESPN:
Children of mixed ethnicity are often seen as pariahs in mainly homogenous Asian Countries, and I’m not sure if things have changed much, but being a celebrity always helps. With all the talk lately about identity on this blog, whether it’s Asians in movies, gays, Chinese or Taiwanese, the Hines Ward story is interesting because he has publicly stated that he was once ashamed to be known as Korean. But with his successes he hopes to bring positive changes to others.
He also has some interesting tattoos: one of which has his name written in Korean and the other of Mickey Mouse. But why does he have a tattoo of Mickey Mouse?
“Mickey Mouse symbolizes fun. You never see him sad, and that’s how I approach life. When things are bad, I smile sometimes. People tease me about it, but that’s my approach — a happy guy playing football.”
Looks like a happy approach in life — and some hope — has gone a long way for Hines Ward.
(Flickr photo credit: SteelCityHobbies)