“Just bc you wake up every morning doesn’t mean that you’re living…And just because you shed your physical body doesn’t mean that you’re dead.”
These are the chilling words that Gavin Long wrote on his Twitter page mere hours before he killed three Baton Rouge police officers and wounded three more in a shootout with law enforcement on his 29th birthday in Louisiana last week.
This was the second time in as many weeks that violence has spilled over the so called “thin blue line.” Yet, in a media system known to repeat its habitual practices when black men make transitions into infamy, the case of Gavin Long has been covered a little differently.
Maybe it’s the need for news outlets to cover every aspect of the Republican National Convention taking place this week in Cleveland. That shit is definitely a stage for the most conservative, bible-beating fetus savers and naturally takes up precious coverage slots. It could also be that this is the culmination of a years worth of not taking Donald Trump seriously enough until it was too late to do something about it. Whatever the case, Gavin Long’s name hasn’t been one that’s been echoed over and over again outside of the internet. His actions have definitely been a centerpiece for debate and are being used on both sides of the political isle. However, since his history with the United States military was uncovered, many have become silent.
The first question when things like this happen is, what would drive a man to such an act? That’s a natural and necessary inclination. Be that as it may, adding one word to the initial question changes everything and forces a different conversation.
What would drive a black man to such an act? Well shit, that’s an easy one.
I think I need to say that in no way is this an affirmation of his deeds. Murdering officers doesn’t curate change and that type of shit never helps with the innate fear that black men invoke in general. What I will say is that even though he fanned the flames burning between law enforcement and marginalized people in this country, many outside of that circumstance are finally starting to at least realize that the fire does indeed exists.
So what do we know about Gavin Long? Who is the man who the media has seemed to taken their eyes off of even though he took the lives of three officers?
“100% have been successful through fighting back. Through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It has never worked, and it never will.”-Gavin Long
Long’s upbringing seemed normal enough. He was born and raised in Kansas City, graduated high school in 2005, and soon thereafter joined the United States Marine Corps. From 2005 through 2010, he worked as a data network specialist, served a term in Iraq, and received various medals for combat, conduct, and counter terrorism. He earned the rank of sergeant (E-5) in less than three years and when all was said and done, Long was honorably discharged after his service.
This is where those who knew him mention this as a critical point when his life and behaviors started to change. In 2011, he earned an associates degree from Central Texas College, then bounced around to a few more universities in pursuit of his bachelors. During this time, he got married, then divorced, all while moving ever closer to the ideologies of the soverign black separatist movement known as the Washitaw Nation. He set forth on a new existence of counter culture, changed his name to Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, and began documenting his thoughts across various social media platforms.
Following the recent polarization of blacks dying at the hands of law enforcement on video and the often unaccountability that’s ensued, Long seemed to center his YouTube chats, Convos with Cosmo, on the subject. In these videos, Long shared his discourse for the disdain of the justice system and the plight that many blacks find themselves in.
Then on July 8th, soon after Micah Johnson ambushed and murdered five Dallas police officers and wounded nine others, Long tweeted a portion of his web talks where he stated an overt satisfaction.
“With a brother killing the police you get what I’m saying—it’s justice,”
Some friends cite an ongoing battle with PTSD and insist it altered his mental state, but law enforcement believes he was completely lucid. According to reports, Long came up with a plan for destruction and stuck to it. He knew what he wanted to do and set out to accomplish just that. After the incident in Dallas, officials state that on July 10th, Long drove from Missouri to Baton Rouge for a standoff that he himself knew would lead to his utter demise. He was also aware of how the media tends to spin narratives to serve particular pusposes and made it clear who he was and wasn’t affiliated with.
In a video fimed just two days before his shootout with police, Long stated:
“I just wanted to let y’all know, don’t affiliate me with nothing, “I thought my own stuff; I made my own decisions…Yeah, I was also a Nation of Islam member, I’m not affiliated with them…They try to put you with ISIS or some other terrorist group…No, I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice…Nothing more, nothing less.”
He then goes on to say:
“I just want everyone to know that if anything may happen to me or with me, I am NOT affiliated with anybody, any group, nationality, association, religion, corporation, business, etc…Yes I am a part of many, groups, businesses, and even a different nationality but I am not affiliated. I Just want to make this crystal clear…Also If you guys have time, I have videos on my youtube channels that you guys can save to your computer just in case anything happens because of course the mainstream news loves to assassinate the righteous mans character.”
The real question that’s gotten lost is what would make two separate black men, with different lives and affiliations, who BOTH served in the U.S military turn guns onto police enforcement in attempts to claim a personal justice for themselves?
Over the the last month–and the last few years overall–we’ve been bombarded with visual evidence that police enforcement is much more severe to some than others. Over aggressive practices stemming from the shitty broken windows theory keep tensions high. Routine stops and simple misunderstandings turn fatal much too often and as a result, an individual of color is taken from the land of the living behind the presumed innocence of the police. For many, justice wasn’t granted in a vast majority of the the cases of death by cop and the protests that have resulted from said cases don’t seem to be having any real effects.
So what’s next?
Again, I am in no way endorsing the actions of two lone gunmen and I don’t believe that those deeds yield any beneficial results to anyone. At the end of the day, it makes cops more jumpy and causes blacks to be viewed even more threatening, which keeps the cycle of us versus them in perpetual motion.
What I do know is that black lives mattered more to these men then their very own and that’s saying a great deal.
Let’s not lose that in the coming conversations.