Interrogating innocence: “Childhood” as exclusionary social practice
Within the contemporary US context, the construct of childhood innocence is a powerful social myth that structures children’s social relations and culture and informs their rights and status in society. In this article, I interrogate the construct of childhood innocence to examine how it operates as an exclusionary form of social practice. By examining the emotional investments and social tensions that have shaped concepts of childhood, which define who is entitled to innocence and what it means to “belong” with/in childhood, I reveal how the doctrine of innocence has operated to maintain White supremacy. I explore the implications of a construct of childhood that works against the agency and dignity of most children by perpetuating silence about social injustices to illustrate the need for a reconceptualization of childhood that acknowledges and prioritizes the human rights of all children.