"Dark" and "Swarthy" Europeans Are Still Light

July 3, 2020

We've seen how olive skin is misunderstood by people to mean "tan" or "non-white", now let's look at the same thing with words like "dark" and "swarthy" used to describe the complexions of Europeans. People treat them as evidence against "whiteness", but they're really just exaggerations of reality.

Benjamin Franklin applied them to a lot of groups that are far from dark, basically lumping all whites who weren't Anglo-Saxon into a "swarthy" group with non-whites, including some who are probably lighter than English people:

All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

Another well-known example of this kind of exaggeration is English ideas about the so-called "Black Irish". They're really just white people from the British Isles (not just Ireland) who have dark hair and eyes and a Mediterranean appearance — like Colin Farrell, Catherine Zeta Jones, Sean Connery, Mr. Bean, Russell Brand and many others — but old school Nordicists used to claim that part of the Celtic physiognomy was "black-tinted skin":


But even when applied to "darker" Southern Europeans, they're still an exaggeration, like in this passage from White on Arrival about how Italian gangsters were portrayed in the media:

Al Capone was constantly portrayed in books, magazine articles, pulps, and movies as having a "dark" or "swarthy" complexion. When he appeared in court in 1929 in Philadelphia on charges of having concealed a weapon, the Chicago Daily News noticed that his "face, which is rather dark, assumed a dull reddish hue." No one emphasized Italians' dark features more than popular writer and former newsman Walter Burns. In his book, The One-Way Ride, Johnny Torrio was "a slight, dapper, dark young man"; gunmen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi had "dark faces"; the Genna brothers were "swarthy, black haired, black eyed, looked not unlike Arabs, and probably had in their ancestral strain a strong dash of Saracenic [North African] blood".

From these descriptions you'd probably picture really dark Saudi Arabians or maybe even mixed-race Berbers, but here's what those people actually looked like (the rare mugshot of Capone has been skillfully colorized to show his blue eyes):


Al Capone
Genna Brothers


Johnny Torrio
John Scalise and Albert Anselmi


So the lesson is to not take descriptions like that literally or as meaning something "non-white". Europeans (including Southern Europeans) actually have the lightest untanned skin in the world, so even when they're "dark" or "swarthy", they're still lighter than everyone else.