An opinion on opinion

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Unless you are part of a certain group, you’re not allowed to have an opinion on the issues affecting that group. If you’re not a member of a certain race, you can’t have an opinion on issues affecting that race, if you’re not of a certain gender or sexual orientation, you can’t have an opinion on that gender or sexual orientation, and if you’re not of a certain religious belief system, you can’t have an opinion on that belief system. This basic idea pervades a lot of discussion about social issues.

Naturally, this limitation only seems to extend to negative opinions about any group in question. If the opinion is in line with what the group believes and wishes to promote, it’s absolutely allowed, even encouraged. It’s only when the opinion is negative that you’re not allowed to have an opinion of a group you’re not a part of. An opinion, however, is not something you can stop someone from having, regardless of the categories they fall into.

We all have opinions about everything, whether we’re aware of them or not. It’s not a matter of allowing or not allowing someone to have an opinion on something. An opinion is not a tangible object that you can take away from an individual just because you don’t think they have enough experience to have one. I’ve never murdered someone, but it’s my opinion that murdering someone is wrong. Someone who has murdered someone may think that murdering someone isn’t wrong. Their experience does not make their opinion more objectively right than my opinion. While murder is perhaps an extreme example, the idea is that objective truth often has nothing to do with a person’s experiences.

However, there is something to be said for a person’s credibility. Obviously, a person who has been to medical school is more likely to be correct about a medical diagnosis than a person who went to law school, and person who went to law school is more likely to be right about tax codes than a person who went to medical school. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more right — it just means that other people are more likely to believe what they say is true and take their advice.

Besides, assumptions about whose opinion is more informed based on skin color, gender or nationality aren’t always correct. For example, an atheist who has researched discrimination against Christians internationally is probably able to give a more informed opinion than a Christian who has never experienced discrimination or researched it.

It drives me crazy to see people telling other people that their opinion isn’t valid because they don’t fit into boxes x, y and z. Shutting down other people’s opinions because you don’t think they’re valid doesn’t help your side in an issue — it just means that if more people agree with you, it’s because they’re only hearing one point of view. Being able to check a certain box doesn’t necessarily make you more wrong or right than anyone else, no matter which box it is.

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