Is someone's opinion more valid if they belong to the issue or group?
- The American Heritage Dictionary defines opinion as “A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof.”
- Opinions are often referred to as subjective, “something that exists in the mind of a person or that pertains to viewpoints of an individual person,” and objective, “not influenced by an individual’s personal viewpoint—unbiased (or at least attempting to be unbiased).”
- Famous LGBTQ+ advocate, Elizabeth Taylor, was heterosexual yet spent decades fighting “the stigmas, inequalities and societal injustices endured by the LGBTQ+ community.” The actress and “gay icon” hosted the first-ever AIDS fundraising dinner in the 1980s.
- A 2016 Pew Research Center survey on race relations in America found that “black and white adults have widely different perceptions about what life is like for blacks in the US.”
All opinions are equal, in that everyone in America has equal freedom to have and voice subjective opinions. But that’s not the same as saying all opinions are valid, meaning “well-grounded or justifiable; being at once relevant and meaningful” or “logically correct,” which is to say they are objectively true. Some opinions are wrong on their face (like human slavery is a common good and a right) or may prove wrong once dissected further (such as the claim “billionaires should not exist”).
Opinions go beyond simply one’s favorite movie or the reasons behind why one’s vegan. The factual basis of opinions matter, especially when policy and lawmaking are involved. Just because someone is directly related to a group/issue doesn’t automatically elevate their opinion above others—no matter their stance, skin tone, situation, social status, or sex. A white person belonging to a white supremacist group that espouses white supremacist beliefs does not make that person’s opinion more valid than any other person’s, including other white persons who wholeheartedly dissent and call that ideology out for what it is: despicable.
Outsider opinions should be as respected as insider opinions—one side might prove more righteous than its counterpart. Think of the tension between the abolitionists and the Antebellum South. Outsider abolitionists didn’t have to be slave owners to know the fact that slavery was a moral abomination, yet southern slavers fought hard to keep humans as property, hellbent their opinion was gospel. It is up to reasoning people in every generation to evaluate and debate others’ opinions, sifting through what is subjective or objectively relevant, and not just accept all opinions as cold-hard reality, or simply dismiss them because they disagree.
According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Cortney Warren, “Your right to an opinion does not make your opinion valid.” A valid opinion has legal efficacy or force; it is well-grounded and logically correct; it is appropriate to the end in view. A valid opinion is effective and seeks compelling outcomes. Stated simply, a valid opinion gets things done. Accordingly, the insider operating in a group can more readily generate practical results than the outsider operating in a non-structured environment. The insider, by the very act of joining a group, has displayed passion and a commitment to the group’s mission. They have skin in the game. Further, groups of national significance have resources, support systems, a shared identity and goals that demand action and results.
This is not to say that the group insider’s opinion is intrinsically better than the non-affiliated outsider’s opinion. This is not to imply a moral or ethical hierarchy of opinions. Rather, this is to suggest that the insider’s opinion coupled with the wherewithal of a credible group has a better chance of producing practical and enduring outcomes. Indeed, should the outsider try to facilitate widespread social change, they will probably incorporate many of the organizational tenets inherent in a well-run group.
Maintaining an active and productive role in the 21st century requires an ongoing evaluation of opinions and ideas. All sincere opinions deserve fair and deliberate consideration. But in terms of relevance; in terms of maximizing the validity of an idea; in terms of maximizing the results in the real world and the impact on the lives of real people; the insider’s opinion coupled with the will and the wherewithal to act is the more powerful choice.