The seemingly benign use of neutral colors in interiors as a tactic to increase spaciousness and sales and "create a blank canvas" raises cause for concern. Diana Young's article "The Material value of Colour: The Estate Agent's tale" reveals the depths to which neutrality as a preferred aesthetic language permeates popular culture. It is here that the neutrality insinuated by shades of gray in Western science has been overturned for a fashionable hue of impersonal whiteness in western interior environments. As Young's interviews with estate agents attest, those hues signify a state of cleanliness associated with good morals and a high level of maintenance. Young writes:
The "blank canvas" nature of walls of beige, white, magnolia or cream minimizes their material presence.... In the critical discourse of modern architecture, white surface first becomes "natural" and then gradually becomes just surfaces, all references to colors ceasing. Whiteness has become a "given" of modernist history.... At the point of sale or rent, colour is too personal, too emotive, and too problematic and can only mar the product, making it appear unnatural and irrational compared with the socially acceptable, genderless, given currency of neutrality as well as producing the unfortunate effect of binding the property to its vendor.
This practice of using colour as a rhetorical tool to erase the particularity of human presence incites a collection of critical descriptors: efficient, sobering, serious, frugal, fearful, oppressive, subduing, passive, tranquil, undemanding, "hovering on the brink of disappearance," and, most germane to my protest, "embodying a socially constructed rationality." Many passionate arguments have been made around race as a dominant form of whiteness, a convenient construct of deep-seated discriminating economic and material practices that are "designed to ensure long-term survival of the culture's worldview." While the use of neutral colors may prove liberating within a housing market, the perception of skin color has quite a contrary effect. Speaking to the subject of architecture and equity with a specific focus on whiteness, Craig Wilkins identifies "whiteness as a historical and socially produced concept that works to grant or deny different life opportunities. It is argued that whiteness is a form of cultural capital, similar to economic capital, and concludes that becoming aware of the advantage that whiteness provides is a necessary requirement to challenging it.... As such, whiteness is often discursively hidden within concepts like neutrality or universality."