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OPINION: Why are racists in Sweden angry at history?

Paul O'Mahony
Paul O'Mahony - [email protected]
OPINION: Why are racists in Sweden angry at history?
A new show by public broadcaster SVT aims to tell the history of Sweden. Photo: SVT

Swedish broadcaster SVT recently aired the first episode of its high-profile new series on Swedish history and racists aren't happy about it, The Local's Paul O'Mahony discovers.


On Sunday night I sat down with my family and watched the first episode of Historien om Sverige ("the history of Sweden"), public broadcaster SVT’s big-budget series chronicling 15,000 years of Swedish history.

As the ice age retreated, the show explains, hunter-gatherers made their way north and established the first communities in the territory now known as Sweden.

As discovered by scientists around a decade ago, they were most likely dark-skinned and blue-eyed. Accordingly, this is how they are depicted in the show.

A thought flickers: the legions of online racists won’t like this one bit. Before even checking, I can hazard a decent guess at the caustic subtext in the online forums where racists lurk:

How dare they come up here and take our jobs before we even had jobs for them to take!

All of which is confirmed when I go on to Flashback, the anything-goes Swedish forum where bigots find their tribe.

A thread on the new series drips with the sarcasm-laden diatribes of countless “friends of Sweden”, ever wary of the enemy within, never pausing to consider they might be it.

How can SVT cast Africans as Swedes? Why all this woke, trans-friendly, feminist, left-wing propaganda?

And those are the more gentle comments. Every new page seems worse than the last in this vortex of crud (you’re welcome, heavy metal band name seekers). There are 1,700 comments in the thread I’m reading.



I rush for the exit but soon hold my nose again and enter the entity formerly known as Twitter. A search for Historien om Sverige reveals another racist broth, though this one is not quite as spicy as Flashback’s.

Time to check Facebook, the festering mire of radicalisation that sucks in uncles and mothers and the second cousin you once thought you knew. And yes, angry aging gentlemen of the internet are also busy peppering Metaland with their hot takes and crap memes.

Algorithmic radicalisation is real. We can inoculate our minds with science but resistance is tough at a time when racists have become emboldened the world over and reason is in decline. The lines drawn against bigotry in our schools, parliaments and places of worship have become blurred as opportunist politicians undermine their worth. That's as true in Sweden as it is elsewhere. 

It’s exhausting, but we do need to keep fighting these corrosive forces. Confront them in our daily lives. Don’t let ignorance and xenophobia go unchecked.

LISTEN: Why is Sweden scared to talk about racism?

a dark-skinned girl with dark hair and blue eyes

A still image from the series Historien om Sverige. Photo: SVT

So what does the science say on Sweden’s first inhabitants? Archaeology professor Jan Apel explains:

“The two groups that came to Scandinavia were originally genetically quite different, and displayed distinct physical appearances. The people from the south had blue eyes and relatively dark skin. The people from the northeast, on the other hand, had a variation of eye colours and pale skin.


“Originally, humans are a species from warmer climates closer to the equator and we mainly cope with challenging environments with specific behaviour and technology. This includes making fires, clothes and specialised hunting equipment. However, in the long term there is also potential for adaptation through genetic changes.

“For example, we found that genetic variants associated with light skin and eye pigmentation were carried, on average, in greater frequency among Scandinavian hunter gatherers than their ancestors from other parts of Europe. Scientists believe that light skin pigmentation helps people better absorb sunlight and synthesise vitamin D from it.”

My advice to the racist trolls: step out of the dark corners of the internet and into the light. Together we can synthesise some vitamin D and carve out time for real-life conversations. We all came into this world screaming, but we don’t have to stay shrill all our lives.


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Maria 2023/11/10 22:06
This is by far the worst article I have read on the Local so far. This piece of nonsensical gibberish is full of stupid accusations, baseless statements and calls for nonsense. All style, no substance. My opinion about the series: people are so tired of american race-swapping agenda which they see everywhere. Sad but true.

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