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White Woman on 40-Day Hunger Strike Over Reparations

'My silence has allowed the systemic racism to continue,' says Rachelle Zola of Chicago
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2021 12:12 PM CDT

(Newser) – Chicago resident Rachelle Zola believes so strongly in slavery reparations that she's willing to die for them. Did we mention she's a 73-year-old white woman
who didn't have a Black friend until 2015? "Am I willing to die for my brothers and my sisters when there's an injustice? The answer is yes," she tells the Chicago Tribune, which notes she's now 32 days into a 40-day all-liquid hunger strike, with the goal of seeing Congress pass HR 40, a bill introduced more than 30 years ago to establish a federal commission to study slavery reparations. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in April, though a full House vote hasn't been scheduled. Zola, a world traveler who's lived in several US states, hopes to get white people in particular on her side. She says she was ignorant about the legacy of slavery until she moved to Chicago in 2019, simply to live among racial minorities.

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The former special education teacher began attending meetings and seminars, with the goal to listen and learn. "I didn't have a clue as to the depth of the harm done not only to the African American community but also to our nation by 245 years of systemic racist policies and actions," she tells the Wednesday Journal. "My silence has allowed the systemic racism to continue," she adds. She began sharing stories of racism on YouTube, hoping other white people would stop looking the other way. She's taken to TikTok to share her latest experience, surviving for at least 40 days on water, Pedialyte, and bone broth. "Her end goal is basically to get this bill passed and to use her white voice and her white body to raise awareness," one supporter tells the Journal. Once the hunger strike is over, Zola says she hopes to travel the country by van, continuing to gain support for the bill. (Read more hunger strike stories.)

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