Thursday, 23 November 2017

"The Hounding of David Oluwale" by Kester Aspden - November 2017

Two of our group members wrote their responses to this non-fiction book by historian Kester Aspden:

I have not finished reading this book, I don't really like its theme ( death)...but after reading 3 chapters, I thought it has good points: a historical revelation of black discrimination in UK which is a delicate issue but current and very real. It gave me an idea of Leeds and how the early black Carribeans and Africans who knew that they are part of the British empire were made to feel they are not part of it once they reached Britain.
By May

I found this a powerful book. It was both easy and hard to read. Hard because the subject matter was painful and some of the passages which threw light on the virtual apartheid system that existed in 50's, 60's Leeds made me feel sick. It is one thing to "know" that they were less enlightened times, altogether different to be confronted with the reality. The raw story of the fate of David Oluwale made weep and shout with with anger.

It was easy to read in the way Apsden presented the story, the social context, the insights from his friends etc. I found the history of the footballer particularly affecting and relevant. I do not read a great deal of non-fiction and even less sociology or social history but I found this engrossing. I could almost see and feel the Britain I visited in my childhood.

In the end I found it was less about the police or a search for justice and more a reflection of society as a whole. How on earth did we manage to construct a system whereby someone could fall so low and no one help him? What was the point in repeatedly prosecuting him without putting any support mechanism in place? Oluwale's treatment by the medical profession was as harrowing and distressing as that meted out by the police and justice system.

The current sexual harassment scandals echo some of the language of this book. Michael Fallon claiming that things were different then, that things that were acceptable in the past are no loner to be tolerated. Those behaviours were NEVER acceptable but victims felt they couldn't speak up or if they did they would not be believed. All those police officers who said how uncomfortable they were with what was going on but not one of them lifted a finger to help Oluwale.

I am very glad we read this book even if it made me grind my teeth.

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