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[Sound of door knocking]

RESHONDA YOUNG: Hello, hello! 

NEIGHBOR: How are you?

RESHONDA YOUNG: I’m good, how are you?

​​ReShonda Young is at a front door in Waterloo, Iowa. She’s holding a clipboard, but this is no visit about politics or religion. 

RESHONDA YOUNG: OK, so as you’ve maybe heard, maybe not, I’m in the process of starting a bank, a community bank, here in Waterloo. 

ReShonda is starting a bank. 

And not just any bank. If ReShonda can get it up and running, it will be the only Black-owned bank in the state of Iowa … and could be the first in the U.S. to open up in the last two decades.

I’m Jamie Smith Hopkins. Coming soon from the Center for Public Integrity and Transmitter Media, season two of The Heist.

This season: a heist pulled off through centuries of discrimination and exclusion. A heist that has left its mark on every town and city and bank account in this country.

The wealth gap between Black and white Americans.

The reality is that in the United States, the median wealth of a white family is eight times that of a Black family.

And you can’t talk about wealth in this country without talking about banks. It’s where most people turn when we need to buy a house or start a business. Banks are gatekeepers to that big dream of starting something, owning something.

ReShonda wants her bank to change some of the systems that have excluded people of color. 

RESHONDA YOUNG: … to provide an avenue for people to be able to get the financial services that they need and decrease the wealth gap.

But ReShonda needs to raise at least $10 million of seed funding in a town that’s been ranked the worst place in the country — economically — for Black people. 

To raise $10 million, she’ll have to face the same wealth gap she’s trying to fix.

RESHONDA YOUNG: It may seem impossible, but I really don’t feel like it is.

This season I’m looking at how ReShonda got here. How we all got here. What caused the wealth gap, and how banks have been making it worse when they could be making it better.

Look for Season Two of The Heist, starting February 22 wherever you listen to podcasts.

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