Is racism in the workplace less of an issue today than it was twenty or thirty years ago? To be perfectly blunt about, I'm not sure that any white male is capable of answering that question.
That's why a recent interview in Computerworld with Earl Pace (founder of the Black Data Processing Associates), who is well qualified to speak to racism in the white-collar world, is so compelling. As he puts it, racism isn't less of a problem, just more of a subtle or sophisticated one.
This is an interesting stance to take on an age-old problem, and one that I would agree with. What it particularly interesting in the interview is how Mr. Pace takes the position that it's not realistic for African-American IT engineers to simply be "IT engineers" instead of "black IT engineers." What makes me ponder here is this: who exactly is hung up on race in the workplace then? I'm going to have to guess that it likely isn't black people.
If you've looked at the byline to this post, you likely noticed my last name (or perhaps you didn't). As a tech professional with some Hispanic background, I can assure you that it's usually not me that will apply the "Hispanic engineer" moniker, but rather others who graciously do it for me.
The point is this: most of us who don't necessarily fit into the mold of the majority in the workplace don't see ourselves as set apart from the rest of the crowd. We see ourselves as IT engineers; perhaps it's time for others to let us be IT engineers. Not everyone has the stomach to stand up to such issues and call a spade a spade when it's necessary. For those who can or do, Mr. Pace is a very good model to follow with respect to advancing one's career without having to advance a cause.