I found this to be a very thoughtful observation by Bessie on page 158:
My [dental] patients had no money to pay me. Things were bad enough for most colored folks, before that Great Depression roared in like some old hurricane. You know, when times are good for white people, things are tolerable for colored folks. But when times are bad for white people, well, look out! Negroes are the first ones to suffer, yes, sir! Like in the South, after the Surrender – Papa said colored folks had it the worst. You can count on it, honey.
When that old stock market crashed, the next thing you knew, the world was falling apart. The newspapers were full of stories of rich white men who had committed suicide, jumping out of buildings, things like that. I can’t imagine having so little faith in the Lord, and so much faith in money, that you would end your life over a little thing like losing your fortune. The Lord says money is Evil, and He is right! Money is the root of every mess you can think of, including slavery. Greed! Profiting off the backs of others!
Well, a lot of these white folks were lost without their big money, when that Great Depression hit. And they didn’t have a clue how to live through hard times. Us Negroes, well, we knew what it was like to hit bottom, anyway. For my people, hardship was a way of life. The Great Depression was just another crisis.
Bessie slightly misquoted the Bible – it actually says “For the love of money is the root of all evil”. (You can look it up in the New Testament part of the Bible, I Timothy 6:10.) But I would agree that most corruption and evil in the world seems to be heavily connected to money. People get to thinking that it’s the answer to everything. It becomes their obsession, and they just don’t ever have enough of it. So when their money is wrenched away from them, they have no idea what to do. Hence the folks jumping out of windows.
Although Bessie felt that white folks didn’t know what hardship was, I would beg to differ with that. I remember my grandparents telling me about the Great Depression years. It was a wretched time, but they were industrious and creative, and found ways to survive. With many mouths to feed, my grandfather found temporary work here and there after being laid off, and my grandmother cooked up dandelions and put them on the supper table. They had to share housing with relatives, moved a lot, went without medical care, and wore worn-out clothing. They’d had plenty of practice being poor before the Great Depression hit, and lived frugally their entire lives. No one group has the edge on understanding hardship, in my opinion.
But Bessie nailed it when she said, “I can’t imagine having so little faith in the Lord, and so much faith in money.” And that’s the bottom line.