When President Obama won the White House back in 2008, some hoped it was a sign that the United States was finally leaving behind its ugly history of racism and entering a new era by electing its first Black president. But in the eight years since then, Obama has faced his fair share of outrageous and unfounded personal attacks. His legitimacy as president has been questioned over the false theory that he wasn't born in the U.S., and he has been subjected to racist comments from those who oppose him. And after a presidential campaign marked by racially charged rhetoric, some groups have reported a rise in harassment and other incidents connected to race and religion. During an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria that aired Wednesday, the president addressed the racism he has faced during his eight years in office, head-on. "I think there’s a reason attitudes about my presidency among whites in Northern states are very different from whites in Southern states,” he told Zakaria. He then asked rhetorically, "Are there folks whose primary concern about me has been that I seem foreign ― the other? Are those who champion the birther movement feeding off of bias? Absolutely."
The interview took place as part of a two-hour special called "The Legacy of Barack Obama." One of the things Zakaria emphasized was that the president "doesn’t see racism in mainstream opposition to him, but he does see it on the fringes." People who have worked for Obama do think that race has played a part in the way his presidency is treated by those who clash with him, however. David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to the president who was interviewed for the special, is certain it had an effect. "It’s indisputable that there was a ferocity to the opposition, and a lack of respect to him that was a function of race," he said.