Barack Obama spoke candidly about his treatment as the first black president in an interview that aired on CNN on Wednesday evening.
“I think there’s a reason attitudes about my presidency among whites in northern states are very different from whites in southern states,” Obama, who is half-white, said to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
The outgoing president described how the “birther” movement – which questioned whether Obama was born in the US – fed off of bias associated with his race.
David Axelrod, a former top advisor of Obama, agreed, telling CNN that there’s “no question” that the “birther” movement has “roots” in racism.
“Are there folks whose primary concern about me has been that I seem foreign – the other?” Obama said. “Absolutely.”
The “birther” movement was driven largely by president-elect Donald Trump, who contended that Obama had actually been born in Kenya, and challenged Obama to release his full, long-form birth certificate. Trump admitted that Obama was born in the US in September.
Obama also discussed how, in his view, the concept of race isn’t just “genetic,” but is rather a “cultural concept.”
“It’s this notion of a people who look different than the mainstream, suffering terrible oppression,” Obama said. “But somehow being able to make out of that, a music, and a language, and a faith, and a patriotism.”