We've all been there: stuck in the uncomfortable position of having to make conversation with an African-American friend, colleague, or husband. Ugh, so awkward. What could we possibly talk about? New answer: Barack Obama!

The New York Times, a newspaper read closely by many whites as they search for answers to their thorny racial quandaries, discovers that using the topic of our new black and white president Barack Obama as an icebreaker of sorts may help to put African-Americans—and normal Americans—at ease.

Take 43-year-old white Becca Knox. She married a black dude six years ago, and still hasn't come up with a single thing to say to him:

Even Mr. Rice’s wife, Becca Knox, 43, who is white, said that despite being married to a black man for six years, finding a comfortable way to talk about race with people of other races, particularly African-Americans, that is sensitive but not self-conscious, candid but not offensive, is still “a constant, constant struggle and process.”

A quiet, self-conscious six years of marriage, they've been. But since Obama's election, blacks and whites are talking about him, together. He is the only polite topic of racial conversation now! He is the "omnipotent icebreaker." He's even bringing together blacks with white gays. We have nothing to add to these final paragraphs:

On the morning after the election, Kristin Rothballer, 36, who lives in San Francisco, kissed her female partner goodbye on the train while commuting to work. A black woman who sat down next to her turned and said she was sorry that Proposition 8, the amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, looked like it was going to pass.

“We grabbed hands,” Ms. Rothballer recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, I really want to congratulate you because we have a black president and that’s amazing.’ ”

“Our conversation then almost became about the fact that we were having the conversation,” she said.

Something moved her to apologize to the black woman for slavery.

[NYT. Please note the myriad underlying psychological complexities of the lead photo when you click that story link. Awesome, or too awesome?]