Preacher on scandals gripping Virginia: ‘There are a lot of skeletons in closets’

RICHMOND, Va. -- A Central Virginia preacher who lived through the Civil Rights era is offering perspective on the blackface controversies gripping Virginia’s Executive Branch.

Rev. Robin Mines has memories of a cross burning in her front yard and her Southside home riddled with bullets by racist neighbors she said professed to be with the Ku Klux Klan.

Those scenes from her traumatic experiences in the height of the civil rights movement are  highlighted in the exhibit, “Faces and Stories: Memories from Richmond’s Civil Rights Era," an oral history research project and portrait exhibition at the Harnett Museum of Art at the University of Richmond.

Rev. Mines said she spent years trying to shake the impact of racism on her life, ultimately moving away from Commonwealth  and enlisting in the Air Force and serving overseas.

Considering everything that she has lived through, Mines cautioned a quick rush to judgement when it comes to a blackface photo associated with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page and the latest revelation that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring darkened his skin when he dressed as a rapper at a party in 1980 when he was 19 years old.

“I'm not excusing them and I'm not saying they're perfect -- none of us are -- but I do believe they have grown from that by acknowledging it,” Mines said. “That's a huge step.”

While the fate of the two men are uncertain, Mines said she does not believe Virginia’s Democratic attorney general or governor should resign -- and she maintains that she would feel that way regardless of the political affiliation.

“Yes, they were college students. Yes, they were adult,” Mines said. “I’m not excusing the actions, but I think there are a lot of skeletons in closets of people from every profession.”

Mines said her faith has guided her often to moments of forgiveness and she believes that, at some point is a critical piece of a larger, necessary conversation on racism.

“The current climate is an opportunity for us to all sit at the table and finally look at systemic racism, come up with solutions to turn things around,” Mines said “It’s a healing moment, not a persecution moment.”

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