APOPKA, Fla. – The death of George Floyd in Minnesota has sparked conversations about race, racism, and social injustice but when it comes to biracial families, one Apopka family says identifying with black or white should not be up for discussion.
“We don’t ask Greek children to question the fact that their grandmother is Italian, the mother is Italian,” Matthew Houvrous said. “We don’t ask people from Spain to justify the fact that their mother is Portuguese and so there’s really no reason that they should have to choose a side, there’s isn’t a real side.”
Houvouras married his wife, Erika, 25 years ago.
"For me, it wasn’t taboo because I am the product of an interracial marriage," Erika Houvouras said.
The Apopka native was born to a German mother and an African American G.I. They married in 1956 during a time when biracial marriages were illegal in some states.
Although those laws have been abolished and interracial couples are not considered uncommon anymore, when Erika and Matt Houvrous were dating in the 1990s, they recalled experiencing a few moments of concern.
“Especially for Matt, I think that some of his family felt the need to kind of warn him of the struggles that he may have to go through being part of an interracial relationship and raising interracial children,” Erika Houvrous said.
The couple says their relationship has been no different than others that want the best for their family. They have a 24-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son.
“Those issues don’t change. How to raise children? What are they doing in school? What are their plans for their future? How do you help them to be successful? Those things don’t change because they’re biracial,” Matthew Houvrous said.
But when their children were young, the differences in their skin tones became a topic.
“When my son was real little, I would ask him what color’s your mother? And he’d say, ‘she’s brown.’ And I said, “What color is your father?” He said, ‘he’s pink.’ And until they get older and are forced into that idea of what race means, it doesn’t really occur to them as small children,” Matthew Houvrous said.
Erika Houvrous recalled the day her daughter had a very similar situation to one she had as a child.
“I can remember that my daughter would come home from school and if Matt had picked her up from school in elementary school, she’d be like, ‘People, they always ask me, is that your dad?’ She’s like, ‘yeah that’s my dad. Why are you asking me that?’” the mother of two said.
How did they handle those conversations? Through art. Matt Houvrous is an artist. Painting and drawing was a typical activity at home for the family.
“We would talk about that, and you would say, ‘OK, find a color that you know is yourself’ and that helped us open the discussion of it’s just a different pencil, it’s just a different crayon. It’s not a different person per se,” Erika Houvrous said. “I think if it’s a conversation you always have from the time they’re small then it’s never like this big talk. That way they feel comfortable coming to you if kids at school question them, if comments are made, but that conversation has to start from the very beginning.”