It seems like it is often ignored or left to assumption. If I write, "He drove home from work" you're probably going to supply whatever "he" is most typical or common for you. I mean, even when I was reading a work I knew had been translated from Japanese, my instinct was still to have the characters "appear" white in my head because I'm white and my family is mostly white. I'm sure the same holds true for them as well. A Japanese reading Stephen King might see the characters as Japanese until and unless told specifically otherwise.
Which brings me to the next point: if you want to specify some race other than "default," how do you go about it? I ask because my novel includes (for many reasons I won't get into here) pretty much every skin tone possible. If I describe one character as "pale," is it OK for me to then describe a different character as "tan" or "dark"?
The approach I've adopted is describing them all in the same way, but with different terms. That way race isn't the deciding factor in the description - the fact of one character being "tan" isn't played up more than the other character being "pale." At the same time, including those words steers readers away from defaulting to racial norms, I'm hoping.
Just something I've been thinking about. What about you? Do you need to deal with this issue and if so, what is your method?