Throughout history there are people who are doomed to die without living a full life from the moment they take their first breath. Robert “Yummy” Sandifer is one of the hundreds of deaths in Chicago who did not have the chance to live a good life, no chance to be happy, or even experience what most children take for granted. Robert didn’t have the oppertunity to become a functioning member of society because of his family, negative gang influences and laws that did nothing to protect the at risk youth in Chicago.
One of the most influential people in all our lives are our parents, by watching them we develop our morals and actively try to become who they are. In the case of Robert Sandifer both his parents were not present. “He was born to a teenage addict mother and a father now in jail”(Times 2). Without his parents Robert got his morals and ideology from his surroundings, in this case Robert’s surrounding consisted of violence and chaos. This violence and chaos that was so ingrained within the community that Robert grew up in, gave him no chance to become a functioning member of society.
Due to his parents absence, Robert had no positive influences or people to look up to, this need for acceptance and a place to call home is what drove Robert into the gang life style, that killed him. Another failing of Roberts family was the abuse that Robert suffered. ” As a baby he was burned and beaten. As a student he often missed more days of school than he attended”(Times 2). The abuse that Robert suffered made him subconsciously want to find stability, something that would be constant unlike his parents.
In Roseland the only aspect that maintained the same are The Black Disciples, this stability is what made the gang life so attractive towards Robert. Another misstep with Robert’s family was the abuse that he suffered at the hand of his grandmother. “The psychiatric report described Fields as “a very controlling, domineering, castrating woman with a rather severe borderline personality disorder. “(Time 3) Robert’s grandmother was Roberts last hope for a life without violence, to Robert she was the savor from a life of abuse and neglect.
When Robert’s grandmother could not care for him, Robert escaped his life by committing crimes such as stealing cars and robbing homes. These crimes are the beginning of Roberts induction into the gang lifestyle. The family of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer was the origin of his life of crime and violence, because of how his family treated him. The gang life tempted to Robert with a promise of protection and stability, thus leading him down a life of gangs and death. For Robert Sandifer, his community was plagued by the violent gang The Black Declipes.
Roberts joined this gang, and was eventually killed by them, but the influence of gang life is what never gave him a chance to be a functioning member of society. All around Roseland there is street art that glorified the gang life style, the art depicted gang signs and the power that you would have if you joined them. “Well, you one of us, Yummy, soon you’ll be spreading the word too”(Neri 32). This is an example of how the environment that Robert lived in glorified the gang lifestyle by actively telling him how wonderful the gang life style was.
This repetition of the glorified gang lifestyle made gang life very appealing to many at risk youth such as Robert who had nowhere to go. Gang influences also glorified horrible crimes to gain power within the gang. “Blasting a Disciples enemy would make him look real good to the higher ups”(Neri 8). This ideology of committing crimes to further your power in the gang can only end in a life sentence or death. This outlook is meant to get as much use of the children who have nowhere to go then throw them away.
The gang leaders that commit these atrocities, make sure that the kids they indoctrinate never know what they are doing will ruin there lives. They do this to control and use the kids to advance their own agenda not caring if the children die. “Several thousand or so gang members in Chicago are spread out across separate fiefdoms, led by “ministers” in their 30s and 40s who are always recruiting children. There is plenty of work for everyone: car theft, drug running, prostitution, extortion, credit-card fraud”(Time 4).
This active poaching of children off the street put a target on all the at risk youth in the neighborhood. After Robert was recruited into The Black Disciples he was doomed to die in prison or on the street, because Monster cared more about his own agenda than the lives of the children like Robert. The Black Disciples that was present in Roseland did not allow children to grow up in an enviroment that would allow room to become anything more than a gang member.
The United States has a justice system to protect citizens and rehabilitate criminals, in Chicago the justice system did not protect its citizens or rehabilitate criminals. One example is the law that would not allow the state to convict a juvenile of a felony. “Police suspect that gang leaders use the little ones as drug runners and hit men because they are too young to be seriously punished if they are caught”(Time 4). This law would make juveniles a target for gangs, because they could not be punished.
This made at risk youth like Robert vulnerable to gang life because this law gave gang leaders a new source of gang members that could not get a life sentence for there crimes. “But the most they could do under Illinois law was put him on probation”(Time 2). In Robert’s case, he had committed over 23 felonies but was not given any therapy or help, he was just spat back out to commit felonies until he died or was old enough to get a life sentence.
The justice system also failed to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents by placing juveniles exposed to violence together. In any such setting, juveniles establish a predictable social hierarchy. The kids who have behaved worse than others such committing robbery, for instance, vs. smoking cigarettes, earn the most credibility with their peer group, which encourages further bad behavior. “He got picked on for being little and having a teddy bear”(Neri 28). This is what should be expected when you put troubled children together.
Kids who entered the juvenile-justice system even briefly, with limited exposure to other troubled kids, were twice as likely to be arrested as adults, compared with kids with the same behavior problems who remained outside the system. In the case of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer even the justice system meant to protect failed, leading to a life of crime and eventually death. Robert “Yummy” Sandifer had no chance to live his life instead he was doomed to die because of his abusive family, negative gang influences and laws that did nothing to protect the at risk youth in Chicago.
We hear of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer death but not 15 year old Diego Villada, or 17 year old Tyrone Smith Jr. , or 16 year old Kahari Stovall, or 19 year old Christopher Reed all of whom died in shootings during the month of April, 2017. As humans we are sociable creatures when we are shunned we turn to actions to get others attention, even fear will turn heads. We must come together to help make sure that no more children should be subjected to the same fate of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer