Émile Cohl art college in Lyons, France, has been called out for using Photoshop to make white students look black in an attempt to appeal to Americans.
According to The Guardian, the school had sent photos and information to American PR agencies in an attempt to “highlight” the college.
One of the photos was doctored, with college director Antoine Rivière pleading innocence, saying the manipulation was done without the school’s knowledge or consent.
Some students from the school noticed the changes to the photos and took to social media to voice criticism, prompting an apology from Rivière.
Meanwhile, the college’s assistant director, Emmanuel Perrier, blamed an American communication company they had outsourced the work of promoting their school to.
“The communication company decided on its own to darken the skin of some students to add diversity,” he told CNN. “The communication campaign was made from the US.”
The doctoring of the photo has been slammed and ridiculed on social media, with some comparing it to the controversial practice of ‘blackface,’ a historical practice whereby white people used make-up to represent a caricature of a black person, usually in the context of theatre.
This is so pathetic. French college students in blackface. https://t.co/YgOuoB3dA4
— missperfumada (@missperfumada) November 17, 2016
The link between ‘blackface’ and college is a particularly contentious one, because although the practice is widely seen as unacceptable today, there have been various incidences of college students using make-up to portray themselves as black, often in an attempt at humour.
In June, an Australian university was scandalised after a photo involving both ‘blackface’ and Ku Klux Klan outfits.
In April, a fraternity at California Polytechnic State University was met with outrage after a photo of a member in blackface was circulated. In November 2017, a student at another US campus, Wheaton College, caused outrage for his choice of a ‘blackface’ halloween costume.
South African students have also fallen foul of it.