By Kevin Ryan
When Martha P. Johnson, a trans woman of color, threw the first brick at what would become the Stonewall riot, she was attempting to shatter injustices perpetrated against the LGBTQIA+ community. Her legacy has given us Pride Month, yet there is still much work to be done to become a more just and equitable society.
Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) as well as members of the LGBTQIA+ community face tremendous gaps in unemployment, wealth and health outcomes. For many across our nation, 2020 was a time of reckoning and realization in our ongoing journey toward racial and social justice. The reality is that our collective consciousness was awakened to the fact that far too many of our neighbors, friends and fellow citizens have endured these challenges every day for generations. Systematic inequality is real; it will take intentionality, resolve, honesty and reconciliation to address the toxicity and oppression that has seeped into every corner of society.
We live in an unequal society in which certain groups face a deck stacked against them. It will necessitate far more action than we are taking now to change this reality—systems change requires the active engagement of governments, philanthropy and businesses. Simply put, it will take all of us. As an organization of purpose, Delta Dental is working to be a part of the solution— a cog in the mechanism of change. It is baked into our very DNA as we exist for the sole purpose to “advance dental health and access” – or put it another way, to get as many people as possible into the health care system.
While our passion is oral health, we understand that good oral health does not begin or end in a dental office. We understand the intersectional and matrixed nature of health requires us to look at the person sitting in the dental chair, and systematic inequalities stand in the way of our mission, our purpose and our vision. We will all thrive in communities that are fairer, more just and more intentional in addressing disparity. This is why June is Social Justice Month at Delta Dental.
In June, Delta Dental employees across the country celebrate what unites us, what makes us different, and the diversity that makes us who we are as a nation. Perhaps as important as celebrating the diversity that makes us innovative, adaptable and sustainable is recognizing that change is needed. We must –name and address systematic inequality through engagement, education and funding. We recognize Social Justice Month and Pride by embracing each other and challenging the status quo.
Delta Dental went BIG to invest in Social Justice and equality for all.
- Pride Month – June is traditionally LGBTQIA month, and Delta Dental celebrated in style. Delta Dental double-matched all employee donations to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), held Pride celebrations throughout the month, shared stories of our LGBTQIA colleagues, providers and members. The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation made more than $100,000 in donations to LGBTQIA causes and organizations.
- Social Justice Month – The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation double-matched all employee donations to the following organizations aimed at creating a more just world for all; Equal Rights Advocates, Association of Latino Professionals for America, GLSEN, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, CARE, and Equal Justice Initiative. In total, employee donations and corporate matching totaled nearly $30,000.
- Delta Dental Community Care Foundation made a $100,000 donation to the NAACP Empowerment Programs.
- Delta Dental held its second annual commemoration and celebration of Juneteenth and made a $50,000 donation to the Hidden Genius Project in honor of the holiday.
In total, Delta Dental and its employees contributed nearly half a million dollars in June in celebration of Pride and Juneteenth and toward a more just nation in marking our internal Social Justice Month. Systematic racism, misogyny, hate crimes, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, and all forms of hate and disparity must end. Money cannot solve the problem, but we together, as a community of Americans, can. It won’t be easy. It won’t be fast, but justice does come. We at Delta Dental will continue to invest and fight to make that a reality.
In June, we walk in the footsteps of the examples of Marsha P. Johnson, Silvia Rivera and all their fellow civil rights leaders and warriors as we march down a proverbial road toward greater equality. Together we can change our stormy present and usher in a brighter future.
Kevin Ryan is director for Foundation and corporate social responsibility at Delta Dental of California