WHAT -- on "nigger" and David Sedaris' The Way We Are
Reading David Sedaris in The New Yorker
The dealer was named Little Mike, and he addressed Paul as "Bromine." He looked like a high-school student, or, closer still, one of those kids who dropped out and then spent all day hanging around the parking lot: tracksuit, rattail, a wisp of thread looped through his freshly pierced ear. After a few words regarding my brother's car, Little Mike ushered us inside and introduced us to his wife, who was sitting on the sofa watching a Christmas special. The girl's stockinged feet were resting on the coffee table, and settled between her legs, just south of her lap, sat a flat-faced Persian. Both she and the cat had wide-set eyes, and ginger-colored hair, though hers was partially hidden beneath a woollen cap. The wife remained seated as my brother and I entered the room. I guess you couldn't blame her for being inhospitable. Here you are, trying to watch a little TV with your cat, and these two guys show up-people you don't even know.
"Don't mind Beth," Little Mike said, and he smacked the underside of the girl's foot.
He advanced upon the other foot, and I pretended to admire the Christmas tree, which was miniature and artificial, and stood on a barstool beside the front door. "This is nice," I announced, and Beth shot me a withering look. Liar, it said. You're just saying that because my stupid husband sells reefer.
She really wanted us out of there, but Little Mike seemed to welcome our company. "Sit down," he told me. "Have a libation." He and Paul went to the refrigerator to get us some beers, and the girl called after them to bring her a rum-and-Coke. Then she turned back to the TV and glared at the screen, saying, "This show's boring. Hand me the nigger."
I smiled at the cat, as if this would somehow fix things, and when Beth pointed to the far end of the coffee table I saw that she was referring to the remote control. Under different circumstances, I might have listed the various differences between black people, who had been forced to work for no money, and black, battery-operated channel changers, which had neither thoughts nor feelings and didn't mind doing stuff for free. But the deal hadn't started yet, and, more than anything, I wanted my drugs. Thus the remote was handed over, and I watched as the pot dealer's wife flicked from one station to the next, looking for something that might satisfy her.
The failure of the would-be explanation. So he wanted to tell her that nigger equals black people (which we understand it does) and that properly used it refers to enslaved people and their descedant, not insensate objects, not remote controls?
Check the OED on definitions of "nigger" and its multiple everyday uses from "nigger-rigged" to "nigger yellow" to nigger head" tobacco.