Recently I watched an HBO film called Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. It's about the West Memphis 3, three teenagers convicted of the murders of three eight-year-olds, and the story of their conviction, sentencing, long incarceration for murders they didn't commit. Why were they suspects? Basically, because one of the kids, Damien Echols, looked creepy. Black tee shirts, witchy drawings, cigarettes, maybe drugs...the hoodlum accoutrements. Echols was given a death sentence, and the other two life in prison, in spite of much exonerating evidence. It's best to watch the film if you want to find out what happened to them and why. I've been thinking about them ever since the news of the Trevon Martin case came through the feeds...the story of a teenager killed because he looked scary. He was wearing a hoodie.
I know lots of boys who wear hoodies and black tee shirts who have lots of assumptions made about them. Some of them are stopped by police, and arrested, for how they look. Kids wear these clothes to speak to each other, not to adults. Probably some boys want to look tough or scary. But it's up to adults to find out what they mean by their clothes before we incarcerate or kill them. How about some communication? Ask what's with the hoodie, the tatt, the all black clothes? How do you feel when you wear this stuff? Don't be surprised if the insightful kid tells you he feels safe.