Sgt. Maj. of the Army: If you 'only see green,' you're not seeing the whole soldier

Elizabeth Howe
September 02, 2020 - 12:50 pm
SMA Grinston


"If you say 'all I see is green,' you don't see all of your soldiers," Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said during an Association of the U.S. Army panel on race. 

The panel was one of several in AUSA's Noon Report series on race which has hosted leaders including Grinston, Under Secretary of the Army James McPherson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin, and others. Monday's panel gave Grinston the opportunity to ask NCOs from across the Army the tough questions about race that are currently at the forefront of the nation's discussion on racial inequality. 

One such question specifically addressed the concept of "only seeing green." The Army, as well as other branches of the force, has long taught soldiers to "see green" -- or only see their fellow soldiers for the color of their Army uniform rather than for the color of their skin. 

But now, Grinston is changing that message, explaining how this approach allows soldiers to only see a portion of each other. 

During one of the various listening sessions the Army has hosted since the murder of George Floyd initially sparked this year's reckoning against racism, a soldier pointed out the limitations of the "see green" mentality. 

"When you say, 'All I see is green,' you don't see all of me," Grinston said the soldier told him. 

"The soldier said ‘You don’t see when I take off my uniform and I go out that gate that people will treat me differently because of the color of my skin. You can’t see that when I go home to New York City that I’ve had a gun to my head 13 times since I’ve been in the Army,'" Grinston recounted. 

Grinston has since stopped using the phrase. 

"If you only know one part of me, you don’t know the whole soldier," Grinston said. 

The listening sessions are just one factor in the Army's recently rolled out Project Inclusion -- an initiative to elevate unconscious bias awareness and mitigate its impacts. The project also includes a 60-day review of UCMJ racial biases within the Army and removing Department of the Army photos from promotion boards come August for commissioned officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers. 

"It’s not just about listening -- it’s about learning and evolving," Grinston said of the sessions. "And I've evolved in how I hear 'I only see green.'"


Reach Elizabeth Howe on Twitter @ECBHowe.

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