GLENCOE, IL—Shock, outrage and fear were just some of the emotions that failed to sweep through this affluent Chicago suburb Monday, when word got out among residents that a white family had moved to town over the weekend.
Challenging none of the close-knit community's long-held beliefs and traditions, maxillofacial surgeon Bill Hanson, his wife Marge, and children Kevin and Sue are the first Caucasians to relocate to Glencoe in more than two days.
"I'll admit, I was concerned at first," said longtime Glencoe resident and neighborhood-watch president Linda Brubaker, 50. "I thought, how will having a white family move here affect property values? Then I realized it wouldn't at all."
"After all," Brubaker added, "once I looked beneath the surface, I realized that this new family of white people isn't really so different from my own white family. Come to think of it, they're pretty much the same on the surface, as well."
Brubaker wasn't the only local to have concerns. Many openly questioned the Hansons' ability to fit in. But their trepidation vanished upon seeing that the Hansons were much like, if not exactly like, themselves, regardless of—indeed, because of—the color of their skin.
"You know what they say about white people," insurance agent Jack Lundegard said. "They drive sensible cars, they bake things, they're always noodling about doing yardwork—all those stereotypes. But then I took a look at the man in the mirror, and I realized, 'Hey, I'm not so unlike that myself.'"
Area investment banker Harold Boyce agreed: "I've got nothing against whites. Some of my best friends are white," Boyce said. "Actually, I guess they all are."
Although Bill and Marge Hanson privately harbored doubts about the move, they quickly discovered that the nearly identical sociocultural background they shared with the people of Glencoe proved not to be a handicap, but an asset, allowing them to offer something familiar to their unfamiliar new neighbors.
"I did have some fears about the kids' ability to blend in and make friends with the other kids at their new school," Marge said. "But luckily, their classmates were very open-minded about meeting new people of the same race. In no time at all, their peers accepted them as white kids just like themselves."
Though 10-year-old Kevin came from a different white neighborhood than his new classmates, he was soon invited to join the Glencoe junior soccer league. The experience has turned out to be enriching for all involved, giving Kevin and his fellow white children the opportunity to work together as a team, regardless of their lack of differences.
Thirteen-year-old Sue had a harder time adjusting. The day she arrived in Glencoe, she cried for hours, saying she missed her white friends back in Bloomfield Hills, MI. But within a few days, she began to adjust.
"I think it's helped Sue to be around other white kids," said Dana Berner, leader of Sue's new Girl Scout troop. "Moving is never easy, but it's lots easier when the new people are just like you."
The children's teachers say they are already fitting in at school and doing just as well, socially and academically, as their new white peers. "I think having strong white role models in their surroundings has helped foster a sense of belonging," said Glencoe Middle School guidance counselor Tom Luchs. "I can identify with them, coming from a white background myself."
Perhaps the situation was best summarized by the Hansons' new next-door neighbor, Peggy Schukal, who has become fast friends with the Hansons despite their racial similarities.
"When I heard who would be moving next door, I thought to myself, 'Hanson? Isn't that a Swedish name?' It sounded sort of Scandinavian to me," Schukal said. "But now I know that there's no reason to judge people by such arbitrary categories. To me, the Hansons, and for that matter everyone living here in Glencoe, are more than just German-Americans, Anglo-Americans, Italian-Americans, or even Swedish-Americans. What's important is to see past all that and realize that, deep down, we're all just white Americans."
Schukal admitted that she was initially rattled by the notion that her 11-year-old daughter Sandra could one day end up dating the Hansons' son. But upon realizing that Kevin is a well-behaved, college-bound young man from a well-to-do family, her fears vanished.
"We here in Glencoe are very open about including all different types in our community," said Fred Schukal, a dentist and Bill Hanson's new golf partner. "To be honest, it really doesn't matter to us what part of Europe you're originally from. As the Hansons' experience here shows, there's room in Glencoe for every shade of Caucasian in God's white rainbow."
Community leaders are pleased that the Hansons' arrival has been trouble-free.
"I'm both pleased and relieved to say that having this new white family in town, at least so far, hasn't caused a single problem," Glencoe police chief Wayne Girardeau said. "Glencoe can be proudly held up as a model to other suburban communities across America that would like to integrate more whites, but are afraid it wouldn't work out."