Is the term ハーフ (mixed-race Japanese/other) derogatory? Can you use it in a newspaper article? Can you use it to describe your boss? If it is derogatory, what word(s) should one use instead?
As an American, it strikes me as incredibly offensive. After all, half is even less than three-fifths.
That being said, ハーフ is a perfect example of wasei-eigo; a Japanese word based on English which a native English speaker would either find odd or not be able to make sense of at all. The context that a Japanese person is going to have when using the English word "half" to describe a person is going to be far different than yours or mine. I doubt that most people who use this word are even aware that it means something other than "mixed-race person" in English (and it doesn't even mean that unless you add more words to it).
So in that context, when spoken by most Japanese people, it is not intended to be derogatory; nor are half Japanese people particularly derided by society. Here's some interviews where Japanese are asked about their thoughts on ハーフ, and they are mostly positive (though given that one of the interviewees looks clearly non-100% Yamato, make of that what you will), and I can hardly turn on the TV nowadays without seeing half-British tarento-du-jour ベッキー playing with bunnies or going "へぇぇぇぇ" over a video clip. (If you've never been to Japan, note that roughly two-thirds of Japanese TV is people going "へぇぇぇぇ" over a video clip.)
All that being said, if I end up marrying a Japanese woman and someone calls my kids ハーフ, I would politely ask them to not do so, then change the topic quickly.
I am ハーフ, and for what it's worth the term has never caused me to take offense, nor did it seem like any was ever intended. When I was in elementary school in Japan, if I got into scuffles, the preferred label was 外人, though not even that is necessarily offensive outside of the context of a schoolyard spat.
In short, if you aren't immediately offended by the term, I wouldn't think your way into being so.
From what I've seen it doesn't seem derogatory. Same goes for the 2nd-generation Japanese from Brazil as well with the word "Nikei"
Just make sure you don't say "New Half" as that will surely upset your boss.
Edit: Apparently it WAS derogatory back in the day when there weren't many foreigners in Japan, but and thus changed and is no longer seen as a derogatory word.
To most Japanese, it is not seen as derogatory. But then, they do a lot of racist things without thinking that it's wrong. If you want a lot of examples, read the blog Loco in Yokohama. He's a black ALT in Japan and he chronicles the things that anger him almost on a daily basis, like the empty circle that surrounds gaijin on trains while the whole rest of the train is crowded.
No, this is not derogatory. We put our culture on top of the word and assume, which is a fair assumption because I don't like using at all, that it is not cool.
But I have had this conversation a few times now after seeing old Japanese ladies talk about being half and using the word with the child's parents.
I even remember reading about the word in a newspaper or some printed article. There are different ways to describe the person/childs heritage too but if you are unsure about how to put something in print about a person you know, I'm sure its probably best to ask them.
The main thing wrong with the term is that it is so vapid. Most Japanese are familiar with the term "hybrid", in the context of cars with two different types of engine, and will figure out in just a few seconds that "hybrid" is an entirely polite and reasonable way to refer to someone of mixed ethnicity, just as it is in most of the English-speaking world.
To see that it is in fact derogatory (if only subconciously so), try pointing out to a Japanese who owns a hybrid car that they have a "half car", and see what they say.