You may not have heard of Hamdi Ulukaya, but you may know about, or even consume, Chobani yogurt. The company is based in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant, bought a defunct yogurt factory in Twin Falls and turned it into a successful business. He now employs about 2,000 people, according to an article in The Seattle Times (November 6, 2016).
His story reminds us of other migrants before him: refugees from the religious wars that devastated Europe in the 1600’s, the Jews, the Irish, the displaced persons of Europe following World War II, Indochinese from Asian conflicts, and now victims of Middle Eastern wars. The list is long of the different ethnic, religious, and other groups who have found refuge in the United States.
As the Chobani business grew, Ulukaya needed more workers. Close to Twin Falls is a refugee resettlement center. Ulukaya hired about 300 refugees for above minimum wage jobs at his factory.
Sounds like the ultimate rags-to-riches story of the American dream.
Unfortunately, Ulakaya has received death threats on social media from some who claim Ulakaya wishes to “drown the United States in Muslims.” According to the Times article, “the far-right website WND published a story, ‘American Yogurt Tycoon Vows to Choke U.S. With Muslims.’”
The mayor of Twin Falls and his wife have received death threats for supporting Ulukaya’s work, which benefits their region with the money spent by the employees, as well as the taxes they pay.
Past history of other refugees has included hatred of new immigrants, including Irish and Jews. Today, however, we contend with the rumor hate mill of social media, spewing out invectives with no verification required.
How do we discourage these unfair attacks? Something to think about as a new administration takes office in Washington.