April 6, 2006
Written by C.N.
Many cultures around the world display certain elements of ethnocentrism, as their citizens may feel that their ethnic group is superior to other racial, ethnic, or cultural groups. But in South Korea, one of their “adopted” and “homegrown” heroes, Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Hines Ward, is causing Koreans to take a hard, critical look at their ethnocentrism:
even as Koreans watch Ward’s stellar catches and crunching blocks endlessly played out on TV, they’re taking a hard look at their ethnocentric culture. Ward’s racial background is sparking a round of soul-searching about deep prejudices that often subject biracial children to taunts at school, rejection on the job, and poverty.
“It is very difficult in Korean society,” says Yi Kyung Kyun, country director of the Pearl Buck Foundation. “They don’t appreciate alien people. They are prejudiced against mixed-blood children.”
The prejudices show up in every phase of the lives of the 5,000 biracial Koreans from broken homes, most of whom have never known their fathers. . . . Mr. Yeo hopes that Ward – who is receiving rock-star treatment – will help to break down some of the severe prejudices often visible in this heterogeneous society.
I think it’s great that Hines Ward can have this positive effect on Koreans. As our world becomes increasingly multicultural and globalized, Asians (and for that matter, citizens from all countries around the world) really need to become more familiar with and less prejudiced against “outsiders” and others who are different from them. This is especially true in many Asian countries that have a history of hostility and prejudice against such “barbarians.”
This development of greater tolerance towards outsiders can also benefit Asian Americans in two ways. First, since a large (and growing) portion of the Asian American population are multiracial, this greater level of acceptance can help to integrate both groups together as a more cohesive racial group.
Secondly, reducing the level of intolerance against “outsiders” can also help promote a greater sense of pan-Asian identity where Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, etc. can more readily accept and feel solidarity with each other while still appreciating each group’s unique characteristics.
It looks like Hines Ward came to Korea at just the right time. Who knows, he could be the start of something big . . .
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Hines Ward’s Effect on Korean Society" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/04/hines-wards-effect-on-korean-society/> ().
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