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Nonprofit hosts wealth-gap learning simulation in Cranberry Township

Veronica Thompson, a facilitator for the wealth-gap learning simulation reads to the group a policy that contributed to the growing wealth gap between white and Black Americans at the Cranberry Township Municipal building on Feb. 23, 2023. Zach Petroff/Butler Eagle
Event shows effect of U.S. policies on different races

CRANBERRY TWP — In 2019 the Rand Corporation found that the median wealth for white households in the United States was $188,000, compared to just $24,000 for Black families. The same study found that the wealth of 400 richest white Americans was equal to that of 23 million Black Americans.

On Friday, Feb. 23, the nonprofit I.D.E.A, which stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Advisory, held a wealth-gap learning simulation at the township municipal center to encourage discussion about the wealth gap between white and Black Americans. More than 30 residents participated in scenarios that highlighted how various U.S. policies affected the wealth disparity among different races.

Charlene Woods, one of the committee leaders for I.D.E.A. said she hoped the simulation was able to show people how certain policies have had a ripple effect on the ability of Black Americans to accumulate wealth.

“It’s an eye opening thing to see something like this,” Woods said. “It’s education about the barriers to wealth.”

For the simulation each participant was given a “White” or “Black” card to determine which experience they would have during the event. A facilitator would read an American policy, which would determine if the participant would receive money, a property card or an opportunity lost card. After each scenario, the facilitator and participants would have a discussion about the impact of the policy.

Veronica Thompson, one of the facilitators for the event, asked her group how they felt after discussing the National Housing Act of 1934, which guaranteed federally-backed loans to whites but legally refused loans to Black families.

“Hopeless,” said Colleen Tanner, who was simulating the Black American experience. “I just feel like there’s nothing that can get me ahead.”

The event included 13 polices, including the Social Security Act of 1935, the National Housing Act of 1935 and the overturn of the separate but equal doctrine with the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case in 1954.

“One of the things I found extremely interesting was how these (policies) quantified the institutional barriers and how they were implemented,” said Wade Lawson of, Cranberry Township.

The evening ended with a group discussion from the participants led by Christel Temple, professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Carlen Blackstone, of Cranberry Township, who was simulating the white American experience during the simulation, said she was able to better understand the wealth-gap disparity.

“I knew beforehand intellectually about the struggle, but I really experienced the huge gap during the simulation,” Blackstone said. “It just kept compounding.”

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