The Eck’s Factor: ‘Reforming from the inside’ is a hoax

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Unfortunately, a Log Cabin Republican is not a lumberjack. 

Formed in the late 1970s, the Log Cabin Republicans is a grassroots organization of dedicated LGBTQ+ Republicans working with the Republican party to “achieve a more inclusive GOP” and champion equality for LGBTQ+ Americans. In other words, Log Cabin Republicans want to reform the political party from the inside. 

Most would assume that someone who is gay would identify with political parties that don’t seek to overturn marriage equality, so Log Cabin Republicans indeed depart from the norm. However, this paradigm of “reform from the inside” is far from unfamiliar. While ostensibly advocating for civil rights, these efforts rarely function as effective methods of progress. Whether we are discussing police reform, drug reform or even Greek life reform, progress requires far more than coalitions of people simultaneously endorsing and “reforming” institutions that are structurally oppressive. 

For instance, LGBTQ+ equality does not only involve white people — it involves all racial groups and genders. I can take a wild guess that a majority of people who identify as a “Log Cabin Republican’’ are white, straight-passing men. But it makes sense, considering white gay men have and always will benefit the most when it comes to LGBTQ+ reform. 

Not to mention the fact that our society still dichotomizes gay people into two categories — those who are “straight-passing” and those who are flamboyant; those who are acceptable and those who are not. Heterosexual men are suddenly praised for wearing dresses and skirts while queer people have been historically murdered for it. A “masculine,” straight-passing ex-Bachelor comes out as gay and Netflix immediately offers him a show, despite the fact that his ex-girlfriend accused him of harassment. 

This highlights how certain marginalized identities don’t void dominant ones. Being a gay man doesn’t elude one from misogyny. Being a gay man doesn’t elude one from harmful platforms passed by the Republican party that affect other marginalized communities. How can one fight for LGBTQ+ inequality in the same party that strips reproductive rights from women, subjects transgender children to genital examinations and refuses to condemn white supremacy, choosing to instead protect the perpetrators of such platforms? In this case, “reform from the inside” completely ignores intersectionality. 

But the “reform from the inside” hoax does not only apply to Log Cabin Republicanism. When we say “ACAB,” we refer to the culture of police and the “blue wall of silence.” In a rare incident, the blue wall was broken in the Derek Chauvin trial when fellow police officers testified against him. That was an exception. 

Police officers are expected to cover for each other in a corrupt system that torments marginalized communities and protects white communities. Whistleblowers have no choice but to criticize it from outside the institution because they resign — or they are marginalized, demoted or fired. For example, back in 2006, Buffalo Police Department Officer Cariol Horne arrived at a scene to find a fellow officer choking a Black man. While other cops stood by, she urged him to stop until she eventually pulled her colleague’s arm from around the suspect’s neck. In retaliation, Horne’s colleague punched her in the face and damaged her teeth. As a result, Horne was fired for “obstructing justice” while her colleague walked away without punishment. 

Meanwhile, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo received backlash after he commented that police reform won’t happen until white kids start getting killed. He’s right — people do not care about reform until the issue finally impacts the majority. The same thing happened with the surge of support for marijuana legalization. Once white people began to cultivate and profit off it, drug reform was suddenly popular. Again, this shows how reform will not happen from the inside, but as of now, it happens when the majority is personally affected by the issue at hand.  

And if we want to talk about an institution especially close to USC students, we can talk about efforts to reform Greek life. Fraternities and sororities have always existed as vehicles of racism, homophobia, elitism and misogyny. They contain engrained power hierarchies that perpetuate sexism, particularly sexual assault on college campuses. For example, sororities are not allowed to throw parties and also ban alcohol in the house. 

Students insist on staying in Greek life to combat their systemic issues from the inside. However, fraternities have their own culture that makes reform from the inside not feasible. “Bro culture” incentivizes men to protect their fraternity brothers after undergoing dangerous hazing rituals — their own blue wall of silence. 

So, how can one be part of a fraternity and advocate for zero tolerance sexual assault policies  when fraternity men are three times more likely to commit rape than non-Greek peers? This statistic is merely the result of the structural set-up of fraternity culture that bestows privilege to the already-privileged, where insufficient Title IX policies allow entitled men to evade accountability. Reforming it would involve upturning this entire framework, which simply cannot be done by a few fish that swim against the current. 

As long as Greek life functions as a profit vessel for universities, it will not be reformed to become more accessible and less elitist. It prioritizes rich, white students and alumni who provide hefty donations to their alma mater. In this case, we have to rely on rich, white alumni for reform, hoping they won’t retaliate against policy changes by cutting their university donations. Again, reform and abolition do not occur until the majority deems it appropriate for their own benefit, or the marginalized group retaliates against their own oppression.

But since reform is ineffective from the inside, how can we actually reform? In this dilemma, it almost feels like we can’t push for progress because the oppressor draws boundaries for what is considered acceptable and unacceptable protest. 

For instance, Democrats and Republicans alike have condemned looting and rioting in response to the murders of Black people at the hands of the police. But Rep. Maxine Waters departed from the status quo when commenting on the awaited Derek Chauvin trial verdict. She insisted that if the verdict was not guilty, “We’ve got to stay on the street. We get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational.” 

Of course, she was ambushed by the same people who condoned Donald Trump’s violence-inciting remarks toward white supremacists back in January, because there is such a thing as acceptable violence for “progress.” The American Revolution was “acceptable,” as was Christopher Columbus’ genocide; but once people destroy replaceable property because the police murder another irreplaceable life, violence is suddenly a no-go. 

The discussion about “reform from the inside” obviously extends beyond Log Cabin Republicans, but as a concept, it speaks to how skewed our perceptions of justice have become and how reform cannot replace abolition. It’s easy enough to call for monumental change from inherently oppressive systems of power; acting on it is a completely different story. 

Matthew Eck is a junior writing about hot-button social issues. His column, “The Eck’s Factor,” ran every other Wednesday.