LEXINGTON — One wouldn't have guessed Tuesday marked the first time Tyrone Terry stepped foot into Lexington's old courthouse building.
"There were just some places you knew you weren't supposed to go," explained Tyrone Terry as he settled into an old wooden seat in a room behind the courtroom exhibit.
Lead along by a friendly tour guide, Terry navigates the place with a marked confidence even though he distinctly remembers a time the presence of a Black man not on trial would have elicited a less-than-friendly response from Lexington residents. In fact, Terry remembers a number of things about Lexington's past.
Terry, who works as a substitute teacher, was born and raised in Lexington and has seen it undergo a number of cultural milestones, the most recent of which was the removal of the Confederate monument.
"I'm so glad and pleased that it came down," Terry said. "The pro statue people don't understand what that statue means to us."
For Lexington's African American community, the statue has always symbolized the community's commitment to white supremacy and racial terror, two things the Lexington community acquainted Terry with from a very early age.
"I've never really talked about it," Terry said of the incident that would shape his formative years. "I don't know if I was traumatized or what. When I was growing up, as a Black man, you just moved on. Nothing went right for us ... if something happened you just moved on."
As a 15-year-old, a Lexington resident shot Terry in the stomach after claiming he bumped into him.
"I remember he yelled at us to stop, and we didn't know what he wanted. But when you're that age you do what an adult tells you to do."
The man shot Terry at point-blank range and his fleeing friend in the back, but that wasn't the most egregious thing about the incident, according to Terry.
"I guess one of the business owners called an ambulance, and they came and got us," Terry said. "When (the responding officer) used to see me, after I recovered, I was only 14 or 15, he would drive by me, wherever I was, and roll down his window and make his hand into a gun, (pretend to shoot) and ride off laughing."
The gunman was charged with firing a firearm within city limits. There were no charges in relation to gunning down two teenagers.
"The first time I cried was when I was 45 years old, and it just hit me. This man tried to kill me," Terry said. "I just cried, man."
Given Lexington's history, Terry finds the "heritage not hate" talking points to ring particularly hollow.
"A lot of people want it to continue because they have never felt that pain," Terry said.
Speaking from his experience as an educator, Terry is hopeful that sentiments are growing more tolerant but at an incremental pace.
"I work with children, and just from that I learned that racism is taught," Terry said. "It's taught. Kids are not just automatically racist."
Terry admits that relatively recent events like Charlottesville and the existence of groups like the Proud Boys makes him question his feelings, but he ultimately believes young people today are simply different from their parents and grandparents. He said the only problem is they are too young to take the reins of power.
"The younger generation, they are not like that," Terry said. "Even some of the ones that were raised like that are not like that."
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